Inside the Classroom

Inside the Classroom: ‘That Was the First Start’

Senior Darius Lewis almost failed physics. Here’s how he changed his path.

Kashmere High School is ranked as one of the worst high schools in Greater Houston. But this year, the 12th grade physics class outscored every other school in the district.

One of those students, Darius Lewis, started the year out failing physics. He and his teacher Adeeb Barqawi talk about how he turned his grade around.
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Transcript:
 
Adeeb Barqawi (AB): I remember in the beginning you used to put your head down a lot and you used to sleep in class and …

Darius Lewis (DL):  Well, you know, I would stay up late doing a lot of different type of homework and a lot of family activities because in my family I do a lot of work for them. Like I help with my little brother’s homework or do chores or make sure that everybody else in the house was comfortable. And by the time it was time to take care of myself, I’m pretty much tired and going to sleep pretty late.

AB: What made you schedule a meeting with me after probably six, seven times, maybe ten times of me trying: ‘Hey, Darius!’  Ignore Mr. B …

DL: My mom told me quitters will never be anything if they keep on quitting. I know that I really want to be a physical therapist and be successful in life but I can’t be successful if I sleep in class or do anything I’m not supposed to. So, it was now or never.

AB: Tell me more about the meeting. Were you scared?

DL: I told you, ‘It’s kind of hard when you don’t get enough sleep.’ And I remember you looking at me like, ‘What you mean? Don’t you have an alarm?” I was like, ‘No, I don’t have an alarm. I just have my phone.’ And I remember you had bought me an alarm the next day and brought it to me. You showed me how to set the clock. That was the first start.

AB: You know, Darius, I forgot about that.  I cannot believe that you … and I remember looking you in the eye because I was like, ‘What is going on, Darius?’

DL:  And after the talk, you know, you asked to put up a piece of paper and write up what I believe in and what I want to be in life and how I’m going to get there. Ever since then, you know, I’ve been looking at that paper every day and wondering, you know, am I getting closer? Am I doing it right?

But I know I’m changing because my grades are getting better and it’s not just in your class, it’s in everybody’s class.

AB: So have you ever thought you’d meet your goals by the end of the year?

DL: Never, never, never, never – I never thought that I would meet half my goals. But I’m generally done with my goals right now.

AB: What are you doing after this physics class?

DL: You know, I thought I would have to wait two, three years, but you know, after high school, but I am actually going to Stephen F. Austin [State University]. So that was shocking and because of hard work and turning things around made it, made it bright for me.

AB: Darius, you know I’m a 2012 Houston Teach for America corps member and you understand that Teach for America pretty much is an organization that people join from all different professions and the commitment is two years. However, people like you, Darius, are the ones who have inspired me to stay for another year. And then my plans are to go into medicine at one point because medicine and education go hand in hand, Darius.

DL: It’s very great to be able to follow your dreams. But, you know, honestly, in my opinion, I would prefer you to stay and, you know, be able to help other kids and give them the opportunity that I had.

 

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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