I was a “just fine” teacher for many years.
The kids who came to me who were successful in school did just fine. The kids who had already figured out the way to do school were just fine. The kids who seemed to find things to like about school ended up just fine.
And yet, every year there they were. Their data staring back at me as fiercely as their refusals. That little group of kids that no one seemed to be able to reach, to help, to figure out how to make them grow like we hoped they would.
And every year, at the end of the year, I hoped for the very same thing; maybe next year it will finally click. Maybe next year’s teacher will figure it out. Maybe next year they will be a better teacher than me. Maybe next year…
But what I seemed to forget for so many years. What I still forget at times is one simple truth; for all of our kids, we are the “Next year…”
We are the teachers that are supposed to finally figure it out, to make the difference, to help them grow.
We are the teachers that are supposed to find just one more idea when we seemingly have tried everything and yet nothing has made a difference.
We are the teachers that we hoped all of “those” kids would get. We are the maybe next year…
So we cannot sit back and wait for next year when that is exactly what we are.
We cannot hope that others will figure it out better than us when we are what these kids got. We cannot pass the child on as an unsolved mystery without working until the very last day, the very last moment, in the hopes that something, even something minuscule, will finally help them grow.
So we keep trying, and we keep reflecting, and we keep asking questions. And we slide those book stacks across their desks with our most enticing books, and we keep sliding them even when they dismiss us through their eye rolls or outright refusal.
We purchase the books we hope they will read.
We confer with them even if they have little new to say.
We give them as much of our time as we can so that they can see that rather than giving up we keep coming back.
And we rediscover the hope of becoming a reader that may have been extinguished either by our own actions or of actions outside of our control.
So when I am asked but what do we do when the kids still don’t read?
When they still don’t care?
When they still just don’t?
I remind myself and anyone else.
But they will, however small.
There will be a moment of success, perhaps not transformation yet, and we will know that instead of simply hoping that next year’s teachers would figure it out, with this one little piece we have gotten one step further. And we cannot dismiss that. So look for the little, for the often overlooked, pump up your patience, and find your successes. Don’t give up on a child just because it hasn’t worked yet. Don’t give up just because nothing seems to matter. Don’t give up and hope that others will figure it out when you are what that child has.
Teach, work, believe and love, and know that instead of “next year” we can make it become “this year…” and then for this one child, we will make a difference. But we can’t do that if we already are waiting for next year’s teachers to figure it out.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.