The academic year began just as my previous years had; various ice breakers, course introductions, breakdown of what is expected from the students, etc. It wasn’t long before I noticed that a student needed additional breaks. I am going to refer to this student as “Student X”. Student X despised any form of presenting, asked for breaks frequently, and was often defensive. Student X had accommodations approved and in place prior to commencement of the academic year. At this time, I was unaware any formal documentation existed, but I knew this student would excel given modifications.
Student X gradually began having “small” talk with me about his other courses, one of which he was struggling in “because the teacher didn’t like him”. Through listening to him talk about this other teacher to me, it was clear, he felt that the teacher didn’t care about the areas he struggled or wanted to see him do well. It was a true-life moment when I explained to him how best to try flipping around the teachers’ thoughts to use them as positive motivation to achieve his goal. After class, I was reflecting on our conversation and boom, it hit me, Student X believed what I have been saying all year about truly caring about each individual student. I was speechless yet overcome with emotions as I watched this student bloom defying the odds to not only successfully complete the courses, but to be at the top of the list not only academically but also with leadership in the classroom. He never once attempted to take advantage of a situation, but rather held himself to a level I have never seen in another at his age. Student X never once gave up. He pushed himself not only in my courses, but also in all his other courses as well. He achieved academic success that surprised many. This was all because he was given the opportunity to be acknowledged for being “independent”.
Over the course of the academic year, Student X, progressively blossomed, slowly letting his defensive guard down, leading his fellow classmates with his leadership skills and innovative application activities. He began taking daily images of the course assignments written on the board, asking for better clarification when needed, and submitting course assignments prior to the due date.
All throughout his previous K-12 education, he walked in his older brother’s shadow, however these siblings couldn’t be anymore academically different. The older sibling soared academically while the brother being compared struggled with basic concepts due to a learning disability. I was appalled, flabbergasted, infuriated that all through his K-12 education he was compared to his brother. I was blown away to hear he asked his parents during the summer if he could drop out of school, and he only had one academic year left to earn his high school diploma. She ended up thanking me for allowing her youngest son to exhibit his own personality in my courses.
It’s vital for all students to feel accepted as the individuals they are, free from judgement to ensure each student enters a positive environment conducive to knowledge growth. Taking the extra five to ten minutes at the beginning of each class, acknowledging each individual student goes beyond what instructor’s original intent may be. What he’s taught me is beyond any adjective available in the English language. This student taught me, it may be the best part of a student’s day, to have one person care about them.