Another week is almost over and it's been a pretty good week. I'm ready for the weekend, though, and I'm planning on doing some fun stuff with the kids. But, before that happens, we've got to get through today.
Today is our Terrific Tiger assembly. It's a monthly award ceremony where each teacher picks a student from their class to be recognized as a "Terrific Tiger", and they get a t-shirt and a certificate. It's a pretty big deal, being that there are only nine months in the school year, and most classes have over 20 students.
I always have such a hard time picking my student, because they are all pretty terrific in my eyes in their own way. But, this month was actually pretty easy for me because I've had one student that made it her "mission", if you will, to get the award.
I remember the first few weeks of school. She was so shy and quiet. She hardly spoke a word to me, and when I spoke to her she would get all red in the face and almost panic. Over the course of the first few months, she had several struggles and often gave up because she felt that it wasn't worth trying. Not defiantly, but stressfully. She would get upset, frustrated, and sad when she didn't understand.
Since Christmas, however, a different girl has been emerging. The quiet, fragile girl that avoided being put on the spot by any means necessary has really come out of her shell. She's now answering questions during group discussions, she's asking questions when she doesn't understand, her grades are coming up lightening fast, and she's even asked me on several occasions for extra work to do to continue helping her grades. She's also one that has constantly asked to do a paper over if she didn't make a grade that she was happy with. She is one of my students that gets pulled out for intervention, and she has told me several times that it's one of her goals to where that doesn't have to happen anymore...and she's very close to making that happen. She's also one that would panic whenever we did our quarterly testing, and even though I was seeing AMAZING gains in her, it never reflected in her test scores due to her anxiety. Yet, the last test she took (last month) she reflected a growth of more than an entire grade level since the last time she took the test.
Her personality has really blossomed, also. I mean, she's always been pretty social with her friends and has always had plenty of friends... but like I said before, with me she would avoid speaking at all costs. Now, she's always cracking jokes, sharing with me stuff that's going on in her life, and comes to me when she needs someone to talk to. She has a smile that lights up the whole classroom and everyone loves being around her.
I'm not singling her out because she's the only student like it in my class, or because I play favorites, but her story is one that has definitely been emerging within ALL of my students this past couple of months. She just happened to be one of the first to make such drastic changes, and has sort of "lead the front" on inspiring other students to follow suit.
I've shared on several occasions that I don't believe my job as a teacher is to teach. In fact, when I make a list of my job responsibilities, teaching happens to be quite aways down the list. I look at my job as being a person that inspires kids to do better and be better. To create and follow dreams. To break out of their shells, to recognize their own potentials, and to take ownership of their learning. My job is to simply hand them the tools to build their futures. (Oh, I like that..and I'm copyrighting it right here and now.)
My job as a teacher is to simply hand my students the tools that will help them design and build their own futures. - Me.
Today's Terrific Tiger has really embraced that about me, and herself. She was a girl that would give up in the blink of an eye, and realized that giving up would get her nowhere. That, sometimes, she had to push past the discomfort, ask for help, and understand that she had it in her the whole time.
Again, she's not the only student in my class that has or is understanding this about themselves. And all of my students have grown SOOO much over the course of this school year. I don't need any tests or data or grades to tell me so, I've seen it with my own eyes. I've been blessed with the opportunity to witness it firsthand. And, those moments are the ultimate reasons I absolutely LOVE doing what I do.
I couldn't be a teacher without my students. I couldn't grow as a teacher or learn as a teacher without them. My students are more than just my job, they are the foundation to my goals and future just as much as I am for them. They make me want to be a better person, to work harder, to find new ways to challenge them, and to discover new tools to put in their toolboxes.
I'm good at my job, but that means nothing if the students don't respond. My way isn't the guide in the classroom, their way is the guide in my classroom. My students map out the way we are going to travel, and I just create various paths to get them where they need to go. And, like I keep telling my kids, there are always MORE than one way to get where they need to be. I will "reinvent the wheel" each and every year, heck, each and every month if I have to. Because one thing I will ALWAYS stand by is that a classroom NEVER works with a "one size fits all" mentality. There are many sizes that need to be offered, and I'll juggle and create and offer as many "sizes" as I need to in order for them to succeed.
Today is going to be a TERRIFIC day...and the fact that it's a Friday just makes it even more terrific.