Yesterday I was talking to my best friend about school starting back up again. I am so excited for the new school year and the new challenges it will bring. As we were talking, she started naming off all of the things I was able to help my students with this last school year.
One of my students, we'll call her Lexi, has a learning disability in both math and language arts (basically an English class). She came to me for both class periods and I taught her at her level of understanding. Lexi was extremely shy and withdrawn when I first met her during my student teaching and I immediately took her under my wing. She reminded me of myself when I was her age.
Although Lexi was an 8th grader, her level of understanding was about 3rd/4th grade. Her main struggle was her inability to retain information unless it was repeatedly taught to her over a long period of time. There were times that I spent the entire 60 minutes teaching her a simple math concept, and then the next day she would have no idea how to do the math problems based on what we had learned the day before. After several weeks of this, I became frustrated with myself because I wasn't able to get through to her.
What I did start noticing, however, was that she was starting to open up to me. Instead of me trying to get her to talk to me, Lexi would start the conversation! She started asking more questions and was able to voice what she wasn't understanding. As time went on she became more outgoing and self-confident. I became less frustrated with myself and did the best I could.
The last week of school, I was working with Lexi on her last math assignment. It was long division - we had been working on long division for 5 months with no real breakthrough. As she was working out the first problem, she looked up at me and said "I never knew how to do long division before because no one would teach it to me. Thank you for teaching me." She smiled and then went back to her assignment. It took all my strength to hold back the tears. I was so happy for her, but at the same time it made me so sad to think that all of her other math teachers hadn't bothered to spend some extra time with Lexi to teach her long division.
There are times when I feel like I need to be a better teacher because I'm not teaching my students "good enough"...but then I think back and remember Lexi. Something so simple that I had done for her meant the world to her.
I want to be able to do that for each and every one of my students.