Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? No matter what you try to do, you just can't shake it? A friend of mine told me that it is called an "ear worm". Not the most attractive name, but I thought it was interesting, none the less.
Well, the same phenomena happens with thoughts and ideas. At least, I hope that I'm not the only one who has reoccurring thoughts. One such idea has popped back in and out of my head many, many times over the last two years being out of the classroom. It has been happening more often as I read a colleague's blog post: That Kid by Diane Csoto. About two days after I read this post, I ran into my version of "That Kid". This is who I write about today.
Whenever I feel like I am on shaky ground, I always start with the "why". Why am I where I am? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Today, as I am contemplating my future, I ask myself the question that a good Admin. friend asked me on an evening of self doubt "Why did you get into education?"
But this story explains it so much better. A few years back, as I taught fourth grade...I met a young man named "Sam". I had heard about Sam in previous years: "Sweet kid, troubled kid" "In first grade, her ran out of class and hid under a car." "Be careful what you say to his dad, he is extremely hard on him."
I took everything with a grain of salt, as I do not like to judge and especially not children. I would wait to meet Sam and go from there. Well, Sam entered the class, seemed quite pleasant, quite cooperative, but there was something behind his nervous smile. I quickly realized that Sam had very, very low self esteem and an extremely fixed mindset. Somewhere, along the way, someone told Sam that he was "stupid". Sam believed this. Although he put in effort, there was a definite block. So, I made sure to give Sam some extra time and encouragement. I worked on building a connection. He seemed to be making some progress, but as soon as something didn't go right, he would shut down.
One day, I honestly don't even remember what exactly happened, Sam snapped. A little girl in my class, who had emotional issues, made a remark to him and he went from 0 to 100 in about 2 seconds. He yelled out that he wanted to "kill her". So I not only had to deal with her reaction, but his as well. I went into Triage mode. I was able to get someone to watch my class and take Sam outside. He started crying and just said "I'm sorry, I don't know what happens when I get like that. I am just so angry inside and something snapped." He continued to tell me that he hated himself and wanted to kill himself. We had a lengthy discussion and I was so proud of him for being able to voice what he was feeling. He had deep seeded anger towards his father who made him feel "stupid" and "worthless". Somehow, I held back my own tears and stayed strong for him. We dealt with that particular issue, accordingly.
Fast forward, about 2 months later...Every year, no matter what grade I taught, my students performed a class musical. I selfishly did it because it made me extremely happy, but I also saw what it did for the students. This fourth grade musical was a new one and very heavy on singing. I would let any student audition that wanted to, for whatever part they wanted. I was surprised at how many students wanted to sing solo! One such student was Sam. When I saw that he wrote down his name, I was a bit nervous. He was not usually one to join in when our class danced or sang. But, he wanted to do it...so I called him up.
He opened his mouth and I got sudden chills and tears! This kid had a magical voice. It was like all of his feelings, came pouring out through his voice. My colleague happened to be in the room when this happened (she was the chorus teacher). I turned around and we locked teary eyes in absolute shock! When he was done, the class burst into applause, they had felt it too. Sam was even taken aback but had a huge grin, from ear to ear.
Needless to say, Sam got the lead in that musical. But here is the point of this long anecdote...from that moment on, Sam was a changed kid. His classmates looked at him and treated him differently. This earned him "street cred" out on the playground. With every note he sang, you could see his confidence rising. I could have probably charted it on a graph. But two magical things happened, in turn:
1) This confidence that came from his talent, flowed over into his academics! It just happened. He no longer believed what his father said about him. He believed in himself and saw that his peers and the adults in his life, myself included...believed in him.
2)His father came up to me, after the first performance. Tears in his eyes, to thank me for showing him what his son was capable of. He had, had no clue. This man, who has a rough past, Mr. Macho...crying at how proud he was of his boy. That time, I couldn't keep the tears in as I cried along with him. He said "I always wanted my kids to be tough, into sports, but this kid has a gift and I need to support him.". Wow! Just Wow!! Was this really happening or was this and "ABC After School Special"?
I saw him the other day and he is graduating from 8th grade. Just seeing the confidence, the REAL smile on this kid, brought me to tears (I waited until he walked away). He is so excited to start High School and excited about his future.
So why am I in education? I am in education to help people: children and adults, find their thing...their spark...and ignite it. Once that happens, all I have to do is sit back and watch the flame grow (sometimes I have to do a little fanning) and smile. I have been very fortunate to have many, many such stories.
So whatever your role, everyone deals with people. My hope is that you take the time to do this. Make those connections, find that thing and encourage. I always say: "Sometimes the smallest things, make the biggest difference." You may just be what someone needs at that exact time. Don't underestimate your power!
I have this ache, not having these connections with students anymore...does that mean it's time to go back on a site? I don't know. I hope that I have had at least one of these connections with those that I currently work with.
Be the spark...be the light.
Mother, Teacher, Presenter, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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