It's amazing how life works itself out. A few months ago I started applying for a teaching job overseas and as I was filling out the application, I realized that I hadn't done much before or during my College years (yikes!). I was one of those students who just went to class and participated in study groups here and there. I was nervous now because my resume looked dull and lifeless, and I wasn't sure if I'd be given a chance to even interview for them because of it, however, I continued on with my application and started volunteering at an Elementary school. Originally, my mission was to have something to put on paper but as time progressed, this volunteering opportunity began to change and I fell in love with the kids that all I wanted to do was spend as much time with them and help them as much as I possibly could. I then started substitute teaching at an alternative high school to gain more experience and within a few days of doing so my volunteering days had to come to an end due to the school needing a permanent teacher for the remainder of the school year. I suddenly found myself committing to being a full time teacher! Just the experience I needed to get me started in the field of Education but I found myself sad for leaving my cute little first graders behind and doubting if I had it in me to handle the task of teaching high school kids without any formal teaching experience, especially to kids who didn't want to learn, as that was the impression given to me by most of the teachers there. My first week was an expected challenge; they had to become familiar with having someone new with new rules and new methods of teaching. I was pleased that I never had to fight for their respect because I made sure to demonstrate it and give it back. I treated them as the individuals they were and not like a bunch of challenged kids with behavioral problems, suffering from mental and learning disabilities, no matter how true that may have been for most, if not, all of my students. I treated them the way I would have wanted someone to treat me if I were them, with understanding and a lot of patience. It didn't take long for me to see a difference in their reformed attitudes and improved grades. They started coming to class eager to get work done and catch up so they can transition back to a regular public high school. Almost every day a student or two would start self doubting themselves and instead of me telling them what they were used to hearing (how they're not going to make it in life) I would remind them how they had an opportunity just like any other 16 year old to change their life, if they chose to. A long with Math and Social Studies, I also taught them about the realities of life and encouraged them to want more for themselves and to fight for their future even if no one else believed in them. This message was easy for me to deliver because I too, was once a 16 year old who struggled with those very same demons.
I am so proud today of my class and to show just how proud I am, I have rewarded them with their favorite snacks and called home to let a parent or grandparent know how well they are doing in class. I have even acknowledged their efforts in front of colleagues because I need to see reformed attitudes from staff as well to really be able to reach these kids. An act of kindness doesn't have to be a tangible reward or gift, a simple "I'm proud of you" as a constant reminder is sufficient because the true meaning behind it is the message from one heart to another, an act of love, an unspoken "I care" statement.