I have a story inside me, a story that I feel compelled to tell. As I left on my last day in Minnesota and was saying goodbye to a teacher that had traveled this journey with me, I realized that this story needed to go beyond me. There are teachers all over the world having interactions and challenges like this every day. Most of us will never know the impact we have on a student, however, I was one of the lucky ones that knew something special was happening in the moment. I also know now that I connected with a group of students in a way that changed their lives and mine forever. It not only impacted my teaching, but it changed my life. It woke me up to what’s possible and to want more for myself, my family, my students and all of education. This story is still not over and I don’t know how it will end, but I do know how it begins! Welcome to my story of how everything changed for me Because of 4. I hope it changes you too!
“Whatcha doing in here? Why are you teaching us?” greeted me as I entered the classroom. I had been teaching enrichment lessons in third grade classrooms all day. Most kids were excited and wanted to be selected for my groups. This classroom and this reaction however, threw me completely off guard.
“I’m here looking for some good thinkers for my groups,” I responded.
“Well, you won’t take me then. I’m stupid. I can’t read.” Jo scowled back as he turned and strutted across the room making sure everyone saw him.
“Challenge accepted,” I thought in my head. Little did I know I was in for an experience that would change my life forever.
“You’ve got some tough kiddos in your class,” I remarked to Mrs. G as I passed by her classroom before school. “I think I better take Jo for a small group to do some puzzles or something. I told him I would if he worked hard while I was in there doing my lesson. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d get through the lesson with this group. They took a ton of energy.”
“Yep, they’re my lovelies. Jo keeps talking about you taking him. I think I have 4 boys that you could pull for a group.”
“I’ll see what I can find in my schedule. I really don’t have a lot of time, and my groups are full, but I want to follow through on my promise. They are also pretty talented leaders, they’ve got the whole school running around trying to figure out what to do with them. Imagine if we could channel that energy.”
“I know right. I’m trying to start a mentor program to help them build some positive relationships too. I think they would really like coming with you and it would be a positive thing.”
Why do I offer these things I thought to myself. Here I am trying to coordinate the gifted program, run groups that I don’t have time for, my husband is moving us to Chicago and I probably won’t even finish off the year. “I don’t have time for this!” I screamed silently in my head. However, I had also seen the boys the last few mornings as I worked monitoring breakfast and had started to build a little bit of a relationship. By relationship, I mean I was able to make eye contact and get in a few positive interactions before I had to intervene and prevent a fight from erupting. But I’m a sucker for a kid with a challenge and a sparkle in his eye so sure enough within a few weeks I found a thirty minute opening on Monday.
“I can take the boys on Monday from 11:30-12:00. Will that work?” I e-mailed, secretly kicking myself for biting off more than I could chew again. I knew I’d be doing my coordinating work at night when my own kids went to bed because I kept filling my days with just one more thing.