Friday, October 30, 2015

For Anyone with a Heartbeat

I graduated from Cinco Ranch High School in 2012, and it was there that I learned of the impact teachers can have on students’ days, years, and lives. It doesn’t stop at teachers, though. It’s administration, counselors, registrars, secretaries, custodial staff, security, and every single faculty and staff member in between. Whether they realize it or not, they have the power to make or break a day. Luckily, the adults I had the privilege of knowing did a lot more making than breaking. They were supportive and encouraging and more often than not, they saw potential in me when I didn’t.

I am currently a senior at Texas A&M University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in English/Language Arts and Social Studies for middle grades, which in turn means that I am part of a pre-service teaching program that requires me to spend one day out of the week in the classroom working alongside a mentor teacher. 

This semester I was placed in a 3rd grade classroom, and this week my mentor teacher asked her students to raise their hands if they thought they were smart. Only a handful did, which is a tragedy to me. It's a tragedy that at the tender age of 8, kids already have their self-image tainted by what the world defines as smart and successful.

Can't pass STAAR? You're unintelligent. Can't do long subtraction in your head? Math isn't your subject, so you should go ahead and scratch that dream you have of being an astronaut one day.

When I was a junior in high school, I dropped AP English and I clearly remember someone telling me that because I dropped it, I should not major in English when I got to college. What this person didn’t know is that I loved English, and I wasn’t bad at it. I dropped it because I was clinically depressed. My motivation, drive, and morale were shot, so I stopped doing the things I loved and the things that challenged me. I was capable of being in AP English, but I momentarily lost all motivation to work hard so I dropped it, and there was really nothing more to it than that. But that one, harmless comment left me reeling with uncertainty about my ability well into my days of mental health. It was a comment made in passing, it was minute, and it was not earth shattering or cruel or even worth remembering. But it came from someone I had a lot of respect for, and so I allowed it to carry weight, and I allowed it to become my truth. If I still remember a trivial comment made 5 years ago, imagine the influence of less forgiving ones. There is power in our words regardless of our hearts and regardless of our intentions, and that is something I feel is often forgotten.

You see, we give kids these labels and they stick, and you know what happens when we tell someone that they can't do something? They stop trying. Even when they have what it takes (which, they do. They all do). Some of us have to try harder than others, and most of us won't succeed right away. But at the end of the day failure is just an ugly word for growth, so at what point did we decide that failure wasn't an option anymore?

AND at what point are we going to stop allowing kids to feel like they aren't enough, and start showing them exactly how capable they are? Because my goodness, we are all so capable of learning everything we want to learn and being the people that we want to be. We were not created to remain static in anything, we were created to learn and grow and DO.

I know that the waters are murky when it comes to understanding why students struggle in school and why people struggle in life, and I know that sometimes it is flat out easier to tell ourselves that so-and-so will just. never. get it. But everyone needs an advocate. Everyone needs someone rooting for them, someone telling them that they can do it when the world seems to be saying they can’t. You need it, I need it. We all do. People need other people – but what if you were the only person that someone else had? How would you change the things you say and the way you interact with others if you knew that your words had the power to give someone else a fighting chance?

I don’t just mean this for teachers or those who work in schools...I mean it for anyone with a heartbeat. We seem to have a nasty habit of seeing others through a worldly lens instead of seeing them for everything they are and everything they could be. What would happen if we used our words and our relationships to empower and advocate for each other? We are more than our grades, we are more than society's standard of success, and chances are, we are more than other people's opinions of us. I say it's about dang time we start reminding each other of that and it's about dang time we start bringing up little ones with that in mind.

Becca Calfee
CRHS Class of 2012
Texas A&M Class of 2016
Undergraduate Peer Mentor in the Texas A&M College of Education, where she supports fellow undergraduates by offering feedback on the writing process, modeling good writing habits and providing a supportive and encouraging voice to students' writing concerns.

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