“Reading this, I guess the question I am raising in telling this story is, where do you give up that tiny bit of optimism and put it to use somewhere else? And for that matter, once you begin the cycle of letting go of that optimism towards a certain group of students, are you ever going to stop? Isn't it my responsibility as an educator to help every student learn and have opportunities at experiences that will help them later in life and broaden their horizons? Or do I only focus my energy on those kids who already have the motivation to do this things on their own, because it's not as exhausting or poor use of my time?”
This really hit home to me because at times in my career, I have asked myself these questions time and time again.
I think frustration and exhaustion make these questions pop up in a teacher’s mind. But I believe there’s always hope.
I remember working with a bunch of elementary school students and feeling bad when they were unsuccessful. I felt bad when they didn’t apply the skills I taught them into other situations. I felt bad when they misbehaved when I knew they could do better. I wanted more for them and I wanted them to want more for themselves. But they didn’t learn bad habits and develop low self esteem overnight, so it would take time. I needed to be consistent and patient because there’s always hope. I couldn’t lose hope because many times, the students have already lost it. It was up to me to give them hope.
I had a fifth grade student who ran away from home because he felt there was no hope. When we found him, (yes, I joined the search in the middle of the night), I told him that we would work together and that there was always hope and not to give up.
During the years I taught high school, I have helped student through many difficult situations. I had a student tell me she was pregnant and wanted me to help her tell her parents. I had students who committed crimes and needed to face up to what they had done. I had students contemplating doing the wrong things because of peer pressure and I was able to discuss this with them and help them make the right decisions. But sometimes things didn’t always work out the way I wanted or thought they should. But there was always hope. Hope that things would eventually turn out for the better. There was hope that the students would learn from the consequences of their actions. There was hope that later in life, they will remember that there is always hope and not give up trying.
As a teacher, we might not see the good results right then or even tomorrow or the next week or the next month. But I believe that someday, a lesson we share with the students may one day be useful to them. I know this because I can’t tell you how many times in my own life that something pops up that I remember learning in school. If it happens to me, there’s no telling how many times it happens in our students lives that we never know about.
I once had a colleague tell me that I saw the world through rose colored glasses and that I needed to stop thinking I could save the world. She felt like I would burn myself out if I continued to try to save everyone.
But I think she was wrong. I never regretted trying to save each and every one of my students. Sure, they may not have appreciated it at the time or even shown any gratitude at the sacrifices that I might be making. But maybe sometime in their life when they are all alone and feel there is nothing left, they can remember me telling them that there is always hope. Feeling optimistic about their future is never a waste of time.
I may not be able to change them right away or even see the change at the time. But I know that I can’t give up on them. I can’t give up on any of them. Maybe this is just me but that is one reason I became a teacher. I remember a time as a student when I thought there was no hope and wanted someone so badly to be there to tell me not to give up.
I think that is why I save all the good notes and pictures from former students and parents. When I get down in the dumps and wonder why I keep beating myself against the wall, I remember these people who have touched my life and how I might have touched their lives in return. Then I think about those that I might not even realize I have touched and continue to keep trying. These memories revive in me the hope that I know is out there.
So, like that old story that states, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I have to say, each and every one of our students need to know that there is always hope.
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'Hope_in_a_better_future'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/30488702@N03/2889103451 by: Massimo Valiani