A Teacher's Super Power is Indispensability
Hear from Cherelle Watson, a teacher from Uplift Education, about the small moments of indispensability in the classroom.
Author: Cherelle Watson
Teaching 6th grade math, you have to get creative to keep your students engaged. During my lesson on fractions, I brought the ingredients needed to make pasta. I allowed my students to pass around the cooking materials and read the labels. I figured that no one would question why we were learning fractions or where they would need them because this was teaching for real life. Everyone has to eat, cooking directions require fractions, and this lesson will be full of engagement. As my students began working with the materials, I noticed one student with his head down.
Me: “Luis, are you ok? Why are you not participating?”
Him: “I suck at fractions, I will never understand math just give up on me already Ms. Watson.”
Me: “I will never give up on you, and more importantly you should never give up on you. It doesn’t matter where you are today, what matters is when we look back at this version of yourself at the end of the school year, you can say I am a better Luis. That only happens if you try everyday and work through difficulty.”
Him: “Ok, Ms. Watson I will try, but I am really bad. I am just going to tell myself I can anyway.”
Me: “That’s the spirit. Remember it’s a process, just get a little better each day, eventually you’ll master it.”
I know that you’re thinking, “Do I have to be a counselor?” Absolutely not, but with any job there will be roles that you fill if the situation is minor. When you work with kids, you will get to step in as a temporary parent, relative, friend, counselor, and role model. Throughout the academic school year, Luis and I had a secret code of “just try” or “I can.” Whenever he wanted to quit during a lesson, I would look at him and tell him to state one of the codes. This always got him super pumped, as he would say the code word with a smile, , and for that brief moment, I knew he believed 100 percent of what he stated.
Towards the end of the school year, I took a week off of work for a wedding. I had never missed a day of school before that. I prepped them for what to do while I would be gone; they wouldn’t even notice that I wasn’t there. This turned out to be false.
Upon return, I received hugs from students and welcome notes on my desk. I never imagined my presence having so much value. One comment in particular altered my view on a “perfect job.” Luis walked over to me and said “Ms. Watson, please don’t ever leave again. I thought you were never coming back and without you I know I can’t pass math or the STAAR test, no one else ever helped me believe. I need you there so I can say the code word, I cant wait to see that I am a better Luis.” I couldn’t believe that he remembered one thing I told him back in August.
Teaching is a job that makes you indispensable. The bonds made inside my classroom were not sufficient for just a day; they reside inside my students and myself for a lifetime. Knowing that my presence meant the entire world to someone made me eager to wake up each morning for work. There are endless stories that I could tell from my classroom, but I encourage you instead to become a teacher and make your own. You, too, can become indispensable.
Cherelle Watson is a teacher at Uplift Pinnacle Preparatory in Dallas, Texas.