This week’s #YourEduStory blogging challenge asks the question how will I make the world a better place. I often ponder the demise of a society who seem to genuinely care about one another less and less on a personal level. I know this is not true for everybody but I do fear that the balance of people who give up something for somebody else is dwindling. I will accept that we do live in times where natural disasters invoke an outpouring of sadness around the world, and most often a ‘reaching into one’s pocket’ to provide a donation. This certainly does occur, but the point I wish to make is that these are ‘big ticket’ disasters, mass mourning, global grief. What about the small things? Are we still feeling charitable toward our fellow man? Do we give in a small way, either through actions or words to just one person, one stranger during our day? Or is it simply too easy to criticise these acts and label the person as a ‘creep’, a ‘wannabee’ or simply a ‘loser trying to make friends’. Why is this the case, why has society turned toward skepticism instead of gratitude and appreciation of small but worthy deeds?
I have recently understood the power of helping someone who needs you. I was tutoring a little boy today as I have done so weekly for about a month. His parents felt he was not well understood by his classroom teacher and his confidence and perception of himself as a ‘learner’ had fallen away. He is a vibrant, intelligent little boy who has been diagnosed and (sadly) labelled, ‘that ADD boy’. His energy was difficult for his teacher to manage and consequently her patience had waned. So, it has been my great honour to have encountered this little boy and his family in my life. He is positively a joyous child who can engage me with his verbal storytelling and show me absolute care and consideration when I come to his door. He is polite, agreeable and willing to try anything I suggest. And yes, his writing and spelling skills are low and the time he spends with me is precious to him and his family as he begins to re-learn things in an environment where he feels safe to take risks. The way I see it, I am this little boy’s Coach, someone who gives him the time to work at things that are often hard, but not insurmountable. Someone, who has the patience becuause there is not the pressure of a busy classroom, nor the demands of a busy teacher.
When I was leaving today, as with most previous sessions I’ve spent with him and his family I watched as his mother was overcome with emotion. At first I tried to dismiss it thinking I was making her feel better when I said, “Oh, don’t worry about it, we mothers are emotional basketcases when it comes to our kids”. But she continued to tell me how much I meant to them and their little boy and how grateful they were. She then recounted her own journey and said she wished someone like me was around when she was at school as she had similar problems with learning but there was no-one to understand. I said to her that I am only doing what I was trained for, but she disagreed. She told me I was doing far more for them than a ‘job’, she insisted that I was changing their lives. Absolutely no ego in this post, only a feeling of humility for being granted this opportunity to help people, help people overcome challenges, help make them able to live in this world with confidence and no regrets. I guess in this way I am making the world a better place, even if it is one child at a time.
As part of the Edustory Blogging Challenge I have been asked to come up with a word, one word, that will inspire me in 2015. This task was actually not as difficult as it first sounded, narrowing the field down to just one singular word that provided the most gravity when said out loud, or simply whispered. Belief – my friend. To say that it is important to believe in oneself is an almighty understatement. And that’s the problem, there is simply not a switch. The, ‘ok let me get this belief thing happening, I’ll just go over here and switch this thing on, whola, I’m believing in myself!’ If only it could be so simple. Instead, we must endure ongoing questioning from ourselves, “Am I doing this right?”, “Should I just give up and do something else?”, “Who really cares anyway?”. Hmmm, to overcome these voices and to really back oneself requires a quality called Grit, the very close relation of determination. The word grit conjures up a ‘dirtier’ version of determination, by definition you know you are going to get your hands dirty if you are a ‘gritty person’. Angela Duckworth defines grit as: perserverance and passion when working toward long-term goals. She also says it requires strenuous effort over a long time, despite failures, adversity and plateaus in progress. Wow, what a downer that last bit is! It certainly sums up teaching at times – plateaus in progress, most definitely. My new best friend will be stamina, stamina to motivate myself, stamina to toil away at my goals, and stamina which is fuelled by belief. Even when the inner questioning threatens to erode my confidence I am going to look at my word, stop, breathe and know that when everything else disappears I still have my self, I still believe in myself, I have belief.