A couple of weeks ago, all of our elementary schools in our district had an incredible day to celebrate our year of pro-kindness efforts with our K-4 students. During this morning, a student from each campus spoke and explained how his/her school has changed and the positive impacts it has had, and here is where I want to begin my story.
About two weeks prior to this event, my school held an essay contest for grades 3 and 4. After reading the instructions and explaining how the process would work, several students eagerly raised their hands as ones who wanted to participate. I passed the notices out to them, but was surprised that the one student I had “pegged” as one who would volunteer didn’t raise her hand. I approached her asking if she wanted to enter the contest and she declined quickly.
As the next day of school approached, I was stilled boggled by the fact that this girl didn’t choose to participate. Of all the students in my class she is the most outgoing, always chatting, has a big personality, and is a go-getter. I pulled her aside at recess time and questioned why she didn’t want to participate in the contest. She replied, much to my surprise, that she was terribly scared to speak in front of people, something I never would have imagined by her sparky personality. I encouraged her and explained to her that I thought she would be fantastic at it, and after much persuasion she finally agreed to at least write the essay.
She made it to the top 5 for our school and had to do her speech in front of the school, as an audition for the real thing. She was brilliant, and had incredible intonation and expression for a nine year old. She spoke even better than I could have imagined her to, and never led on to the fact that she was nervous.
In the long run, she won the competition for our school and presented her speech in front of over 1000 people, never leading on that stomach was in knots, and making me as proud as her own mother was.
I think sometimes as teachers and in our busy work lives it can be hard to remember and recognize the greatness in all kids. Each one has something unique and amazing to offer to the world. Although this girl can sometimes drive me crazy with her persistent loud voice, I realized that this was a tool that she could use. We need to help our students discover their gifts and encourage them to share them.
Since then, not only has she become more confident in herself, but our relationship has grown. It’s amazing what a little encouragement and believing in someone can do. We’ve all had those teachers who believed in us, so now it’s our time to pass on the gift and show our students how amazing each of them are!