Tonight I have to share a celebration that is just warming my heart.
I have a student, we will call him Sam, that has been a struggle for me all year long. You know the type- withdrawn, unmotivated, would basically sit and do nothing all day if you let them. The kid who keeps you up at night as you think of how you can reach them. I have worked hard all year long trying to figure Sam out, get in his head, and we have had lots of little moments over the course of the year. We've had our good days and bad days, and he has been making steady progress.
But today, he absolutely blew my mind.
It all started a few weeks ago with an idea from one of my amazing teammates.
The boys in our school need role models, solid positive examples of what scholarly men should sound like and look like. So my teammate, who happens to be male, thought of a brilliant idea- Tie Tuesday. Every Tuesday he wears a necktie and chooses students to wear one of his 'magic ties' in class to be a model of scholarly behavior. In order to wear one of his ties, the student must take an oath and promise to behave and follow all directions. This idea caught on quickly with the boys and soon several of them throughout the school were wearing their own neckties from home and truly improving their behavior.
On a whim one morning a week or so ago I talked with Sam about trying out a magic tie. I explained that if he chose to wear one he had to exemplify all the characteristics of a scholar- all day long. He thought about it, but said he wasn't quite ready.
Today Sam walked in the door with a smile on his face, came right up to me, and said, "I'm going to wear a tie today." I tried not to let him see my surprise and just said, "Well go and get it!" I was a little nervous at how this was going to play out, but I kept my smile strong when he came back in with the tie neatly around his neck.
Let me tell you - I have never seen that child work the way he did today! Not once did I have to remind him to start his assignment, tuck in his shirt, find a pencil, or turn in his paper. He did everything- every single thing all day long! He even showed all of his work on his math assignment when he normally does it all "mentally" AND he shared his feelings at our class meeting!
At one point during the day he asked me for an extra journal to practice math problems in. As we were standing next to the cabinet and I was feverishly searching for the extra journal praying that I wouldn't somehow ruin this precious moment, I was telling him just how proud I was of him. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yeah, I'm having a really good day. I don't know if it's me or just the tie." I stopped digging, put my hands on his shoulders, looked him in the eyes and told him that he didn't need a magic tie. He was amazing all on his own. I gave him the biggest hug I could give (and held back my tears). I couldn't get on the phone fast enough after school to gush to his grandma about his awesome day.
If you were to know Sam personally, and we all have a Sam in our classroom, you understand how huge of a deal a day like today is. These moments of absolute joy when you see a child bloom in front of your eyes - they are priceless. This is why I love my job. We do whatever it takes- even if it means creating the idea of a "magic tie" to bring out the best in a kid. I will be forever grateful to my teammate.
In the midst of testing season, it's very easy for us to overlook the little things that are sometimes the most important things. Today was a milestone for Sam, hopefully one of many more to come.
Tonight I'm not going to worry about how to better explain summarization or how to find multiple lines of symmetry. I'm not going to stress about my kids continuously ignoring the word NOT in a question or failing to see the word OPPOSITE. Tonight, I'm going to celebrate the small things - the small things that are actually very big things. I hope that you will, too. :)