Small Things With Great Love

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 08 2013

Strength in Weakness

It’s the end of the year and I miss these crazy kids already! As I read the letters they have written to me, it hits me how much we have gone through together. Today, I got to call some of them about their End of Course Geometry scores. I wish I could see them in person, but hearing them so excited and so proud was pretty amazing as well.

I remember my first call to W, one of my football players. To tell you the truth, I was nervous for him. I didn’t think he would pass. Though he sits in the front, he’s always busy daydreaming or looking defeated. Getting him to do work is like… trying to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube (I know, weird analogy). Despite all this, he was adamant that I call him first no matter what. When I called and told him that he had passed with a 3, all he could repeat was “thank you”.

This “thank you”, wasn’t like any other one. It was loaded with the whole year of mental struggle and torture that I had put him through. This “thank you” was for every nudge and even flick that I inflicted on him for every time his brain wandered off. This “thank you” was so personal to me because I know he’s never worked this hard ever in a class before. I remember the few weeks before the EOC, I was “preaching” and telling my students that they need to change their mindsets. If they believe they can pass, then they can. He then commented, “I still fail even though I tell myself I can”… This “thank you” showed him that he CAN because he DID. I’m so proud of him.

I couldn’t help but smile each time I called. And I would stay on the phone after the conversation just a little while longer to hear their residual celebration.

54% of students who took the EOC passed. This was a 48% increase from last year’s 6%. 60% of my students passed. There will be more next year.

To be honest, I don’t believe that my teaching technique or skill did any of this because of the fact that I have no teaching skill yet. I don’t think I teach well at all. I can be more organized. I can scaffold better. I can better use data to target and support weak skills. There are so many things I can do better.

If there is one thing I can attribute this success to, it is getting these students to care for their own education. Because once I get them invested in their own learning, it doesn’t matter how crappy of a job I do because they are going to want to understand the material for themselves. I’ve tireless drilled and instilled these values into them. I do this because this is more long-term than me teaching them well. If their success is based on how good of a teacher I am, then their success is short-term. However, if their success is build on their internal values and priorities, their success will be long-term. That’s why, for most of my students, I’m not worried about next year. Even if they have a “bad” teacher, I know that my students will fight to learn because they have come to see how important their education is.

As I reflect on the end of my first year, there were so many times that I just wanted to break down. There were times were I felt so drained that I had nothing more to give. There were so many times I felt alone in this. It was in these times when I was desperately dependent on God. And miraculously, I am always replenished and capable of giving more than I though I could give.

This year, I’ve really learned how to rely on God’s strength and love because I couldn’t love these kids on my own. I just didn’t have enough. But God’s love is eternal, it is infinite, divine, powerful, awesome, beautiful, and transforming. While I was trying to love these kids as Christ loved me, I was reminded of how much God loves me. I know that each time I messed up, God used it for the good. That though I perceived a day to be bad, perhaps that was exactly what needed to occur so that God could turn it His way around. God always has a plan, a plan to prosper me, not to harm me. A plan to give me a hope and a future. God is so good.

So “thank you”, “thank you”, “thank you” for this amazing year, for this amazing experience, and for these amazing kids.

“When I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:10

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first thoughts from a first year

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