A year ago I moved across the country to teach. I was ready for a change and I wanted to be a part of something bigger then myself. I was going to go teach in a typically underserved area that can be difficult to staff, and even better for me I would escape the cubical walls. I knew it would be hard, but how hard was something I completely underestimated. I be apart of a change, but I had no idea how much I was going to change.
I could tell you the same story about urban students you always hear, but that story misses so much about the community that I teach in. Yes I teach in one of ‘those’ neighborhoods. It was one of those neighborhoods I wasn’t allowed to go to as a child. My suburban context knew they existed, but now I was working ‘there’ every day.
My students started third grade with a reading level similar to what you typically see in kindergarten. What the curriculum said they should be learning was a HUGE gap from what they had the skills to do. My students showed up every day. They knew they were going to struggle with the work, but they showed up. Together my students and I started to define what their success might look like. We both too the risk to try. I learned to be a better listener and truly hear my students. They also learned to hear me when I refused to give up on them. I would continue trying until I found a way because that was what I expected from them.
You see, I learned more from my students, the neighborhood, and my coworkers then I could have possibly taught them. My students changed me in ways I didn’t even know I needed to be changed. I learned to listen to them process all the times someone told them they couldn’t do something, and they showed me what it was like not to give up. They showed me what it was like to face fears, trust someone, and some of those little students showed me what a true work ethic is. I learned that some mornings you can’t do your assignment until you got a chance to talk. I learned that sometimes you just need to giggle in the middle of the lesson, and I learned to trust my students as much as they trusted me.
My students taught me to find joy in simplicity and to stay true to my purpose. I know when to fight, when to walk away, what is truly important to me, and most of all I learned to be thankful for all the things I have in my life. I am so grateful, exhausted from a hard year, but so grateful.