I will admit it. I struggled this past week. I know why too. I want to save every kid and I know I can’t. Trust me. I have the GED track record to prove it. And this week I extended my streak and it is killing me inside. Adding a student’s name to the drop out list never gets easier. For someone who takes great pride in being a champion for kids, it is a hard pill to swallow.
This morning I read a post by @MrPowersCMS,
entitled, “Full Disclosure” http://cmslearning1.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/full-disclosure/
reminding us to take time to write for ourselves in order to get through those difficult professional moments that sometimes makes us want to question our impact as educators. So I wrote this post for me today. But I also wrote it for my PLN on twitter and for all of you who have ever experienced that very moment where a student feels like giving up.
There are days, weeks, months, and even years, when emotionally I give everything I have to a student (and in most cases their families) and when they hurt, I hurt. After twenty years as a school administrator, I can’t help it. I want to see every student reach their potential. I don’t want them living in potential prison. I want to see our students reach their potential freedom so they can experience firsthand the joy and feeling that comes with accomplishing something significant.
This past week tested my resiliency as a school leader as I struggled to successfully address and come up with solutions to help some of my students deal with their ongoing personal crisis. From my conversations, one student shared he didn’t believe I cared about him. One person spoke of being on a path of self-destruction and feeling like there wasn’t anyone who could help him. One student felt like the school system was placing limits on his academic abilities. Another student described how she walks the hallways after each class period with hundreds of students yet feels as though the hallways are empty and she is alone. And finally, for one young man, school was still a place where a team of adults come together like a parole board to determine his future.
I have shared in prior posts that I struggled in school throughout my educational schooling. Part of my motivation in becoming a school leader was to take my personal experiences and use those experiences to help others; to recognize that every student has the potential to make a positive impact. So when I feel like I am not able to make a difference with a student, well, it is hard not to take it personally. I don’t mean personally like I think it is about me. I mean personally as in I feel helpless that I am unable to come up with a solution at that moment to help a student who is feeling hopeless and lost.
I know from personal conversations with some students, they still believe school is an ‘institution” which puts limits on their potential. They share stories of being told for years they can’t do this or they can’t do that. They believe the system categorized them throughout their school experience and labeled them as average, low ability/reader, at-risk, potential drop out, special needs, etc. and then watched as the same “institution” labeled others as an honors student, talented and gifted, college bound, and AP potential. And others, they speak of unfulfilled promises by adults and a system which assured them of success only to find out they meant success for those who were willing to play the game of school and were compliant. Some of these students now attend school in body, but are not there in mind and in spirit. In other words, they have checked out and are just hanging around the prison yard of potential waiting to escape.
I am a believer that every child needs a champion who cares about them and is willing to encourage them. But they also need someone to take notice of their skills and then provide them the strategies and an understanding of how to use those skill sets in order to thrive. There are a myriad of variables that come into play which determines why some students are successful and some students are not when we are dealing with our most challenged students. Regardless of how difficult my week was, I know from past experiences (both personal and professional) that I must remain focused on the long term and maintain faith and hope that I have made a significant impact in some way. After all, I made the decision long ago to give of myself in every capacity with no expectations of getting anything in return, but to help the greater cause. As my good friend @TechNinjaTodd
also reminded me this morning in his post, “I Am A Champion and You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar” http://nesloneyflipped.blogspot.com/2013/09/i-am-champion-and-youre-gonna-hear-me.html
So hear me roar now! Our kids matter and I am going to continue to fight for every one of them, knowing full well I can’t save every one of them. But I am also not going to use that as an excuse not to try. It is not my place to judge their contribution to our school community, but it is mine to own that I provide a means for them to share their skills and talents and/or help them acquire the necessary skills and strategies to improve their chances of not walking out as a prisoner of potential but rather a promise of expectations fulfilled.
“Everyone person wants to matter. Everyone wants to do work that matters. Secure their heart and their passion and you will be inspired by their contribution.” – Angela Maiers