14 Days to Take It Up a Notch

I keep thinking that if I could consider myself an expert at conferring I might actually feel confident in writing a book about it. Then every once in awhile I hear a voice that tells me that the only way to become an expert at conferring is to write about it. Then another voice says, “Can anyone ever be an expert?”

I think about conferring a lot. I know that when I confer regularly with my readers they read more, and they read better. The same holds true for my writers. The more we talk about the moves they make and the meaning they want to convey, the more they take ownership of their work and confidently work at it.

But the consistency in conferring trips me up a lot.

This week I read in a student’s notebook: “I didn’t take the AP exam because my teacher didn’t make me feel like I was good enough. I know that is a terrible excuse to go off an emotion like that. But it also connects with the reason why I don’t do my homework. I get no educational support from anyone. I feel like I’m a nobody that just exists in school. That’s why I turn to music cause it makes me feel special and important.”

That burned. He knew I’d asked to read it. He wrote that for me.

I flip through the notebook and read poem after poem that reflects this student’s sadness, despair, and thoughts of hurting himself. Of course, I take it to the counselor.

I turn to my conferring notes and see that I’ve conferred with this student as much as my others, but he has never let on he was quite so unhappy. We’ve talked of academics, of books, of English things like reading and his writing. I’ve known he’d been depressed in the past. I thought he was doing better.

Now, I wonder. What if more of my students feel this way? What could I have done differently this year that would have let them know I care more about them as people than as English students?

I could have approached conferring differently, more purposefully, more personally. The irony? I wrote about the need to confer with fidelity here, and my first point is about our students’ need for personal attention.

I have 14 days left with my students this year. Surely not enough time.

I’m still going to try.


And now for the rest of the story.


That evening I went to the bookstore thinking I would buy this boy a book. I was on the hunt for the YA novel Someday This Pain will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, a book I haven’t read yet — but oh, that title.

No copies available.

Then, I saw You are a Badass:  How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 1.19.08 PM

Diego:  “…when you feel like you have everything but you are never satisfied” that speaks to me.



The next morning, I scribbled a note inside the cover and called Diego into the hall to give it to him. I told him that I’d read his message and handed back his notebook. We talked a bit, and he assured me that he’d written those poems awhile ago, but he still felt lost at school. I assured him that he was not alone, he needed to believe that every adult in this school cares about him — that’s why we teach here, and the worst thing we could do is take it easy on him because life never will. I gave him the book and watched as he hurried back inside the room and quickly read my note.

I’ll take that smile.

Day 13.


Note:  When I snapped that photo of Diego, one of the girls nearby laughed and said: “Mrs. Rasmussen, taking it up a notch.”

“I’ll be writing about you next,” I said.

Student name and writing used with permission.




Tagged: , , ,

6 thoughts on “14 Days to Take It Up a Notch

  1. […] because we care, sometimes to our own detriment, we don’t give up. Amy, unwavering in her commitment to use every last moment, wrote about this too. It’s the moment when banging your head against the wall one last time means you break […]


  2. shanakarnes May 16, 2016 at 5:58 pm Reply

    Ahhhh, I treasure this story. Diego is in so many classrooms across America. I only hope that more students are lucky enough to have a loving teacher like you. Gifting students with books is one of the most powerful ways we can transform their lives. Thank you for writing this and for being you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Norah May 14, 2016 at 12:54 am Reply

    What a wonderful thing you did: seeing a need and responding to it in a personal way. Lucky Diego.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Erika B. May 13, 2016 at 7:15 pm Reply

    You are a Badass changed my life – as an adult. I love that Diego has access to this piece as a young adult – he’ll be way ahead of the game. It will most definitely support him in ways words from those surrounding him cannot. You should guide him to the author’s website: https://www.jensincero.com. He can sign up for Sincero’s blog posts emailed directly to him. Which, I promise, he will laugh out loud.

    Keep us posted! Way to pass on individualized literature that speaks to our students’ souls!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jenni Haveman May 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm Reply

    I’m reading this post on a day when I especially needed it– I just had an issue with a student that makes me wonder how many others automatically revert to thinking I’m out to get them rather than working to help them. I could say the same about my conferring, and I’m not sure how to fix that. And I’m pretty sure the work we’re doing to connect with our students is an upstream swim when they’re used to feeling like Diego felt. Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed to be reminded that this is a figuring-it-out process, even for those who already do it so well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy May 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Jenni. As teachers we really are in all of this together. Thank you for being part of my support team. God bless.


What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: