The other day, I kept trying to think of something big that has happened so far that would be obviously recognized as a success, but had no luck. I went to work that day, and it was one crazy thing after another. I was needed in three different classrooms that day and was going crazy trying to track down kids and sneak them out of classes to have them contribute to their teachers’ surprise teacher appreciation gifts for Catholic Schools Week.
In the middle of the chaos of my day, one of my 7th graders, Arianna, asked me if I could stay after school with her for tutoring, which I have done on a handful of occasions. As we sat there after school, it turned out that she didn’t really need my help with her work. She and I usually work on her math but she didn’t have any math homework and is doing pretty well with their current material. What she really needed was supervision after school so that she could stay and use the computers. She told me she didn’t have internet at home and it was hard to get a lot of her work done there since many of their assignments are web based. So I sat with her, and we talked as she finished her project. Then she asked if I could help her with her religion homework and to study for her vocab test the next day. I found out that her mom doesn’t speak any English, so she isn’t able to help her with her homework. I made her some flashcards and quizzed her to show her how to use them.
In the middle of studying, one of my first graders name Gia, was walking down the hall to the bathroom. She is in our after care program since her mom works late. Earlier in the day, she was upset about the lunch her mom packed and refused to eat anything. I promised her that I would sit at her lunch table and let her draw something on my hand if she ate her lunch (I can’t remember for the life of me how that idea was even presented – it definitely wasn’t my idea!). As Gia passed the classroom where Arianna and I were working, she came in to remind me that she had yet to draw on my hand. I told her to come in and pulled a marker out of my pocket and handed it to her. She took it, wrote “I ❤ Gia”, and then skipped happily back to her classroom as I admired her handy work. Then I turned back to Arianna to apologize for the interruption in our studying and she said, “I can tell you really love kids.”
As I drove home at the end of my 10-hour day, I realized that that was my success. I was looking for something huge – a student whose grade jumped from a D to an A, a crisis that I managed, something extraordinary. But I realized that my successes are the little moments where the students feel loved and know that they are the reason I get up and come to work in the morning, that my goal is to ensure their happiness and success. The little moments that remind me why I put in 9-10 hours a day when I don’t have to or get paid to do so and why I love doing it.
Gabby LePore is a graduate of the University of Maryland; her Cap Corps placement is at St. Francis International School in Student Support Services. She’s always been interested in the field of education and her year at St. Francis is helping her figure out what role fits her best.