Thursday, March 26, 2009

On Success, Part 3: Fostering Positive Change in Students

This is part of a two-week series on my five biggest successes and failures as a teacher this year. This week is focused solely on success.

Early in my career, as I struggled to learn my craft, I would often get down on myself (not surprising from someone who just published a week-long list of failures for the world to see). At the end of my first year of teaching, I forced myself to make a list of "Good Things I Accomplished" to remind myself of all the good things I was doing that I still have.

I included lists of students who made huge improvements, that I built strong relationships with, and even a group of students who didn't like history before taking my class. I was happy that I had pushed my students towards great success on our benchmarks and standardized test, but most importantly "my dedication to what's best for my students, not the administration".

The list of students in whom I helped facilitate a genuine positive change became a staple in each subsequent "good things" list I did. This year has been my most challenging, and I need to remind myself of the good I'm doing now in order to keep myself going.

I can't name names, of course, but I know I have students who...
  • are brilliant and continue to excel in my class.
  • have told me they didn't understand math much before my class.
  • never passed math before taking my class.
  • received their first A in math from me.
  • have sincerely thanked me for helping them one-on-one or in general.
  • came to school just because they didn't want to miss my class.
  • call me their favorite teacher even though I don't have them in class!
  • have failed or lost credit due to absences but are now passing.
  • aren't satisfied even with a 98 average!
  • told me I was responsible for teaching them what they needed to finally pass the MCAS.
I admit that I don't feel like I've made a difference to as many students as I believe I did in years past, but I would be lying to myself if I didn't also admit some success this year.

In a Sentence
Take stock of all the good things you've accomplished this year--it will be a longer list than you think!