I get random text messages from the students that I recently left behind in North Carolina. I miss them and they miss me.
I didn’t love living in North Carolina but I loved my job there. I loved the kids I taught there. I loved them because, honestly, no one else did. They were the kids that weren’t going to do much for test scores, always well below the 40th percentile. They were always in trouble. They skipped classes, they struggled to learn, they struggled to read, they struggled to write, they struggled to speak English. They were my absolute favorite.
Maybe they struggled with all those things but I saw in them the capacity to learn so I pushed them. I taught them that most things worth doing aren’t always easy. I let them eat snacks in my room daily, they listened to music, they taught me Spanish. They shared their weekend stories about the parties they went to, who they were dating and who had just broken their hearts. They talked to me about how it feels to be the ones who sit at the back of the room, the teachers who were afraid to interact with them. They told me about their home lives. Tragic and beautiful, these kids had lived more life in their fourteen years than I will ever live.
I gave my students a chance, I showed them they could do hard things. Even when they wanted to curse at me-and they did at times-I made them dig deeper and do the work. They wrote books, they presented them and I had teachers ask me, “How did you do that?!” My only response, “Belief and expectations.”
I will always miss this group of kids. They taught me what it means to look past what everyone else thinks or says (even administration), to set expectations, to foster relationships and to simply believe in the underdog. I will always believe in these kiddos. They will do amazing things. They already have. Never underestimate the power of belief and expectations.