I met with a student during my plan today to hear her story. I’m at the tail end of listening to each introduction–I just have the reschedules left. This was one we had rescheduled a few times due to various conflicts.
I have eighty calc students this year. Out of those eighty, about ten did not share any major hardship with me. (In other words, from what I can tell, a maximum of thirteen percent of my calculus students have not undergone some kind of tragedy such death, abuse, or neglect.)
But today’s story…today’s story brought me to my knees.
I sat there and listened to hurt after hurt, tragedy after tragedy that this beautiful soul has endured. And finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I started weeping. Right in front of her. I asked if I could hug her and we just held each other and sobbed. Sobbed for the childhood of which she was robbed.
And then I collected myself and asked what her plans were for the future.
And she lit up.
She has plans. Big plans.
(Side note: some of those plans hinge on being a valedictorian, which is now in her grasp because of a committee I got to be a part of in which we redesigned how that honor was awarded. Yay us!)
These plans include using her education to pull herself out of poverty, to end the cycle of darkness, as far as it depends on her.
My quote of the week this week was, “When we own our story, we can write the ending.” (Brene Brown) I feel this lady has mastered this at such a young age. She owns her pain, owns her story…and that makes her invincible.
She’s decided it doesn’t matter if she has familial support or not. It’s her life. She gets to choose the outcome.
The timing of this lesson for me was uncanny. I was in a slump today, feeling a bit dejected. A bit like “Am I where I’m supposed to be? Am I wanted here?” I’m assuming we all have these days? (Please say yes.)
But I was reminded today: it doesn’t really matter what others think of you. You keep working on you. You keep progressing. You keep reaching. You keep trying. You keep pouring. You keep loving.
You keep showing up.
You keep making a place where kids feel valued, safe, wanted, heard, and known.
And maybe people will notice.
Maybe they won’t.
Maybe you’ll have the biggest cheering section of all.
Or maybe you’ll be alone in your endeavors.
My student reminded me today: it doesn’t matter.
You do you, as the kids would say.
I know I’m the teacher here…but today the roles were reversed.
Today I did most of the learning.
It’s not comfortable, to be clear.
But growth never comes from comfort…
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”Colossians 3:23