She tells me, “You know, Mrs. Ripp, I really learned a lot in 7th grade…”
I grin, and ask whether she is sure, that I often wonder if anything we do really helps them learn.
She says, “What helped me the most were all of those little things you would teach, the easier ways to do things. I use those now…”
The bell rings, my sub time is over in 8th grade, I tell her to see me for a book, and she is off to see her friends.
I am reminded in these moments that as an educator I need to see the small steps. That I need to count the little moments that really are the big wins in the bigger picture. That it is easy to see that one child who all of a sudden becomes a reader, or a science lover, or a coder, or a successful student. But that when I only look for those big moments, I miss all of the small ones that are equally important. I miss the moments that show signs of important growth, that may not be as obvious as that big aha moment.
Like the child who independently abandoned his book and then immediately went to the bookshelf to grab another one.
Like the former student who told me he didn’t have a book and then actually came and book shopped and found one.
Like the student who told me that he thought it was pretty cool that he doesn’t hate reading now, but doesn’t mind it as much anymore.
Like the child who trusts me enough to tell me that she is lost and needs help.
Like the child who only takes two reminders to settle in rather than five.
If we only measure education in the big successes, we may lose faith in our ability to actually create change. For our students to actually grow.
Because those changes happen so gradually that they are easy to miss.
Because those changes often happen after they have left us.
Because those changes aren’t always shared in an outward way.
Because those changes often get overlooked when we compare students to each other and then wonder why they are not all acting the same way.
So if March is bringing you down.
If you are having a hard time remembering why being teacher is the very best job in the world.
If you are wondering if you are making a difference.
If you are wondering if your students are learning and growing.
Look for the little change.
Really remember how they came to us.
See how far they have come.
And if you are not sure, ask them. Do they know how far they have come?
Count the small steps and then count yourself lucky that you get to be a part of this incredibly complex process we call school.
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.