That Inner Light Must Be Turned On

A middle school teacher came into my room to observe some of my students she'll have next year. I asked her about the student I had last year whom I'm currently working on a super hero/educational comic book with this year. She shook her head and told me he's not doing well. When I asked why she told me things that were wrong with him.

When I mentioned how much he grew last year (probably as much if not more than any other student in the country - 700+ points in math and 865 in reading, when @100 points is equivalent to one year's worth of growth) she told me even more of what was wrong with him. It hit me this morning that her jaw had clenched and face tightened as she said this....almost as if she was fighting to justify why he wasn't learning this year...i.e. why in no way was it her fault

I tried planting some seeds of how she could help him grow by mentioning some things I did with him that worked, like finding out what was right about him (his love of drawing super heroes). It didn't seem the "soil" was very fertile planting ground though. Her mind seemed set on why his current failure was his fault and not hers.....and everything that was wrong with him v. right............whereas last year my mindset was on where was his failure WAS my fault, what was right already about him, and how I could change my teaching to allow his strengths to help him succeed.

Whatever I was doing in the first part of the year wasn't working, and in a parent-teacher-administration meeting I took the blame for it

I began to try a new approach with him.......and it didn't work

So I tried something different....and that didn't work either

It wasn't until mid-year that I became a much better student of him that I learned how to become a much better teacher for him

But this process wasn't possible without taking full responsibility for where I was failing, learning from my failures, trying a new, more intelligent approach.....and continuing to try UNTIL I found an approach that worked.

If someone like Edison can try 1,000's of times to figure out how to invent something like the light bulb, can't we as teachers and parents try at least more than a couple of times with these young human beings that have been placed in our care?

We know when we're born that light bulb is on, illuminating us with all that is good about us and all that is possible in this brand new wonderful world.

That light goes out in way too many of us way too soon. But that doesn't mean the bulb is broken. It just needs to be rewired and then relit.

And we must find a way to do that.

"Mr. Stuart, one day a kid just like me is going to be reading a comic book written by me."

I just heard what he said to me at the end of last year.

This year it seems less likely that will ever happen.

You don't give up on your most important dreams simply because the light has gotten dimmer on them.

It means you put more energy towards making it burn even brighter.

I'll make sure when I call him today that his inner dream light floods out the darkness beginning to surround him.

And I'll keep doing it until he's able to do it on his own.........His dreams depend on it.

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