"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will spend it's whole life believing that it is stupid."
While having a classroom filled with students of my own was definitely at the top of my wish list for this school year.. days like today make me realize exactly why it wasn't meant to be.
When leaving school after a day of subbing, lots of thoughts bounce around in my head. Some days, thinking about the chaos and events that are wrapped up in a teacher's workday make me want to go home, pour a glass of wine, and cry. Truthfully, some days are hard and as a teacher you have to keep it together until you are within the confines of your home where you can finally let your guard down. It gets to you on those days. When you can't for the life of you get the students to stop talking in the hall or when you try so hard to help a child understand something and you feel like you're failing as a teacher. You leave with the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
Other days, I leave with this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Today was one of those days. After stopping bus 22 to help a girl who almost missed it get on, my mind drifted to the events of the day. The classroom is amazing, because it holds an abundant amount of opportunities to teach little lessons that affect children in a big way. I'm always looking for those chances.. not to take away from the academic lessons required.. but to effortlessly add the teeniest bit of information to help these children believe in themselves and each other.
First, Next, Then, and Last was a lesson we worked on in first grade today. As a whole group, we used our story from reading to write these four sequenced sentences together. As we began writing our "next" sentence, I watched a boy's face fall. He sat his pencil down and adverted his eyes from the Smart board to his hands on his desk. Helplessly I watched as silent tears started streaming down his face. Quickly, I wrote the sentence so the rest of the class could continue working and I asked him to come talk to me. From the way he dragged his feet and looked at me, I knew he thought he was in trouble for not working.
"What's wrong _______, why are you upset?"
"I just can't do it."
"Of course you can, look at how great you've done so far. I know you can do it because you already are."
"It's too hard. I'm slow and I can't write that fast." He continued to cry.
"You're frustrated because it's a little hard for you to write fast and make every thing look good, aren't you. Guess what? Sometimes things are hard for me, too. Nobody is good at everything.. but everybody can try! Just because someone else is faster doesn't mean you're not just as good. Do you want to leave this perfect sentence here and have a seat until you feel better?"
He looked at me shocked and shook his head yes.
A few minutes later, He came to my desk to get a tissue and I asked if he was feeling better. He just shrugged.
"I know you're very smart, I've seen how great you've done all day. There's nothing to be upset about. It's frustrating when you feel like something is too hard for you.. but I believe in you and I know you can do it."
"Are you going to be here tomorrow?"
"I don't think so, Why.. do you like me?" I joked.
He finally cracked a smile and said yes. I laughed and patted his shoulder. "I like you, too."
He left to go Title 1 with some other students. He'd been in and out of the classroom all day receiving extra help. Wondering if our talk had helped him at all, I moved on to the next lesson.
When he came back from Title 1, he gave me a hug and said, "Mrs. Taylor, thank you for helping me calm down earlier."
Tearing up even now, moments like these make me realize how fortunate I am to be a part of these little children's lives.. even if it's only for a day. It took absolutely nothing for me to do what I did for him, yet it made an impact regardless. The child is used to being defeated. I could tell from the moment he started crying. Most teachers would choose to get upset over the fact that he was no longer participating and make him "clip down" for making bad choices. But I was able to step back and see the bigger picture. You can't force a child to participate when they don't think they have the skills to do so and when they don't believe in themselves. He wasn't defiantly making a choice. He was hurting because he was feeling less than. Students have to believe in themselves - and know that you believe in them - to do great things. It takes the smallest of steps but the finish line will be achievable for them if you allow it to be.
He never did finish his assignment, but in the big scheme of things.. did it really matter? He understood first, next, and last, he overcame his own doubts, and hopefully learned a little lesson that he will remember. The sincerity in his thank you tells me he will. While I wish I could be there every day to tell him how smart he is and that I believe in him.. I truly feel that there are other students in other classes that I will sub in that need to hear it just as much. If I had been given a classroom this school year, I wouldn't have the opportunity to help the amount of students I do when subbing.
I look forward to seeing him and all of the other students like him around the playground, walking the halls, or in the lunchroom. Nothing is better than when I get to watch their faces light up upon seeing me and when I hear "Mrs. Taylor!" being excitedly shouted. I don't think they like me just because I'm fun and nice. They like me because I truly want to help them. I make an effort to know their names even though I'll only see them for a day. I go the extra mile to teach beyond what I'm required. I care about them regardless and they sense it. Loving what I do is awesome... but knowing that the students love what I do is the ultimate compliment.