An offshoot of Ed Trust’s Echoes From the Gap series, drawing stories of students from behind the statistics, this blog series shares shorter narratives — brief glimpses into classrooms and hallways — that give readers an opportunity to examine educator practices and policies through the intimate lens of student experience. All stories are based on interviews or first-hand accounts, but are shared with respect for the privacy of students and the adults around them.


As students make their way back to school, I’ve been thinking about the many young people I have been fortunate to talk with over the past year— resilient students who have struggled with school disengagement and are now returning to the classroom, a fresh year ahead, to try to do things differently.

It’s back-to-school time and she’s been looking back at the choices she made last year. The fights she shouldn’t have been in and the classes she should have. The office referrals and detentions. The D’s and F’s on papers that never made their way to the refrigerator door with her brother’s. The half-hearted, half-completed assignments she stumbled and gave up on or thought weren’t worth the time. The hollow way she saw herself in the back of the class. The weight of layers of self-doubt and the ill-fitting indifference she tried to disguise it in.

Thinking about doing things differently this school year.

Wanting to make a change.

Lying awake the night before school starts, she’s running through her resolutions, imagining the things she’ll do differently.

Maybe this year she’ll sit in the front.

Maybe this year she’ll ask for help.

Maybe this year she’ll raise her hand.

Maybe this year she’ll try like she could really succeed.

She’s up early the next morning, determined to beat her reputation through the classroom door.

Maybe it’s your classroom she’s entering.

Making her way to a seat near the front, maybe a little bit off to the side.

Hoping you’ll see her beyond her file.

Hoping for a chance to show you she’s changed.

Hoping you’ll notice something different in her — maybe even something special.

Hoping that you’ll give her the space and support to grow and to change.

Hoping that you’ll let her go not back to school … but forward.