Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A face and a spark

at Two Writing Teachers!
Usually when a teacher runs breathlessly into my classroom at the beginning of a class period, one of my students needs to do something or go somewhere. Or a bilingual aide is needed.  Or the teacher has run out of strategies for meeting the needs of a student. Or...

"What's up? Do you need somebody?" I tried to appear concerned/interested as I simultaneously tried to get my students started on reading.

"Oh, we were just playing 'Guess the Student' from this morning's staff meeting... Is it H.?"

My shoulders relaxed and my biggest grin started to shine. Guess the Student? WE? It's 7th period! People have been thinking (and talking!) about this all day? AWESOME!  "Yeah, it's H. Good job! Isn't she just incredible?"

I got them thinking. I made a difference. Just one 5-minute vignette, but what a SPARK!

We had asked to be on the staff meeting agenda to talk about meeting the needs of ELLs. As I planned, I thought of my students: the ones who struggle through sorrow. The ones whose hearts are broken. The ones who can't believe they're lucky enough to be here. The ones who flounder through a strange world. The ones who are proud to share their world with us. The ones who work nonstop. The ones who feel so lost they've given up trying. The ones who find success and find themselves.

 If everyone knew my students as well as I do, wouldn't they want to move the world for them too? If they knew what these kids are going through, wouldn't they remember to speak with kindness and teach with patience and consideration? So I took a deep breath, stared out over all the heads of all those teachers who barely even know me, and told one student's story:
Hopes and dreams. Responsibilities and duties. Fears. Medical struggles. Religious devotion and open-mindedness. A willingness to try new things and a hunger to learn, despite her anxieties and obstacles.
After school, another teacher stuck his head in my doorway on his way out of the building. "Just wanted to say 'Great job!' on the staff meeting. I really liked the personal story. I think it made people think about students in a different way!"

A history teacher. A French teacher. The principal. The assistant principals. A math teacher. A science teacher. The school psychologist. The librarian. "Great presentation!" "Was the student H.?" "I liked hearing about your student!" "Aren't our students amazing?"

When I told my mom, she called it "putting a face on the data". To me, it's just loving my students. It only takes a SPARK to change the world.


  1. I love that your mother said it was giving data a face, how true! Jennifer, you are such an advocate for your kids. You make such a difference in so many ways.

  2. I love this! Our sped (special education) teachers share their students with us in a slide show every year. It helps me to remember them when I know a bit about each of them personally. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of looking beyond the obvious to the struggles of our individual students. You inspire me to teach with kindness, patience, and consideration.

  3. Jennifer, you just inspire me every week with your love for your students. What a gift you give them every day, by just loving them, who they are, just that. All the rest is gravy! Thanks for sharing what you called this 'old' story-new to us!

  4. Jen, I love this story. It's clear how much you care about your kids. Good for you for sharing their stories with your staff. You made them real and your mom's description...putting a face on the data is perfect.

  5. You could have presented this at my school about one of my students! The way that you write about your students makes us feel that we are part of what you do as well. Anytime that a non-ELL staff member gives kudos to you, take it and multiply it by 10! You have earned it.


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