Right now there is a little girl sleeping in bed. Her hair was washed and blow-dried, ironed clothes draped over the chair. Shoes and bow placed on the table. It all matches, and it’s all new. The backpack is by the door, and she’s excited to walk with her dad to her new classroom tomorrow. That’s my daughter, Elle.
But there is another little girl somewhere in this very city who does not own a backpack and will be the only child in her class that does not bring supplies with her name printed neatly on each item. She sitting right now, bouncing a baby in her lap who has been crying all evening. She goes and digs in her drawer for school clothes. Maybe the ones that her mom brought home from the church clothes closet will fit. She smooths her hand over the stained shirt, making it look a bit less wrinkled. She’s too tired to take a bath. But she wipes her face with a washcloth and is angry that no one will be there to see her to school tomorrow. She wakes herself in the morning, waits for the bus with neighborhood kids, climbs on, and rides to school. When she gets to school, she has nothing in her hands, but notices all the smiling parents and kids walking together to classrooms. She does not even know what class to go to. Instead of crying like a baby, she grits her teeth and locks her jaw. She would rather be angry than cry. She would rather be bad than be stupid. She would rather bully than be weak. But what she would really rather is to be cared for and loved. And right now, her teacher is her only hope.
Next time you drive by the broken down homes, remember that our students live there. And next time you hear about a drug bust or a shooting in a neighborhood, remember that tiny eyes may have been watching the whole thing.
This is what our job is all about--giving students a chance.
Obviously, I love my daughter, and I’ll do whatever I can to help her succeed. But my calling is to make school better for that second little girl.
We have the future of our entire city in our classrooms.
Jesus, I know that Your will is to prosper my students.
I need your wisdom and your help to know how to teach my kids.
I pray that this year, no matter what the circumstances they face,
that I am an instrument of love, hope, and change in their lives.
May they be different when they leave my classroom.
For the students who are especially difficult,
please give me a compassion for them.
And lots of patience.
Help me to not write them off in the beginning.
Susan Dewees, Ed.D. is an administrator at a large middle school. She also served as a Turnaround Team Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has 20 years of experience in public school education, and special education is one of her specialties.
Erin Stokes, Ed.D. is a Title I Instructional Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has over 10 years of experience as a teacher and instructional coach. She is also an adjuct professor at Louisiana College. She loves students, teachers, and most of all--learning.
Becky Pippen, Ed.D. is currently serving as principal of a large middle school in Louisiana. She has over 20 years experience in educational leadership. She is passionate about improving the teacher workforce so that all students have the quality of instruction they deserve.