Melissa is one of my seniors. She has been interning all year at Ben’s Bells, a local organization whose mission is to spread kindness through awareness and action. For her Senior Impact Project (required of all seniors), Melissa was determined to turn our school into a “kind campus” by facilitating various activities desiged to foster a culture of kindness. After Melissa graduates this May, she will go to the local community college before heading to the University of Arizona where she plans on graduating with a Bachelor of Science.
By the time Melissa graduates with her BS, she will be the first in her family to have obtained a four-year degree. That’s an example of the “future perfect tense”. This verb tense is used to describe an event that is expected to happen. And I fully expect that Melissa will graduate from a four-year university in four years from now.
Melissa has not always had teachers with such optimism. When Melissa bumped into her former middle school teacher a couple of months ago, the teacher could have said something like “It was so good to see you, Melissa! The next time I see you, you will have graduated from high school and entered college!” (note: future perfect tense). But instead she said, “Wow! I never thought you would have made it to senior year!” Her shock at Melissa’s progress was indicative of what she believed about Melissa all along. And for Melissa to have made it this far with a teacher who assumed so little of her is nothing short of remarkable.
I’d like to propose a new verb tense: the perfect future. With this tense, we talk about students in best-case scenario terms, even if that best-case scenario is hard to believe or statistically unlikely. With the perfect future tense, we can feel free to nominate students for awards, scholarships, and programs not based on how amazing they are all the time (those kids get plenty of opportunities) but on how amazing we have seen them be.
Even if only once.
As educators, we need to believe things about our students that may seem impossible. We need to see our students as their best-case scenario selves. We need to be able to talk about them, write about them, and think about them in ways that defy odds. Because if we can’t, they won’t. And if they won’t because we can’t, then we have no business being in the business.
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