This I Believe

Jennifer - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Entered on June 5, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: hope

As a teacher the most important thing that I can do is believe in my students, regardless of their disabilities. I have taught special education for five years, and have worked with students with a variety of different impairments. Emotionally impaired, cognitively impaired, learning disabled, hearing impaired, and speech and language impaired are just a few of the labels that have categorized my students. However, labels do not describe who a child is inside, only what society sees as a deficit. In my experience, I have yet to meet a child who did not have the potential to achieve, regardless of the label that had been attached.

All students need positive energy in their life. They need to know that they are valued. So many of the students that I work with constantly feel defeated because of their own perceptions based on the perceptions of others. They look at many things as being impossible. In many cases, they have given up because they are afraid of failing yet again. In order to overcome these negative thoughts, students need to feel success, as well as praise and encouragement for the things they attempt.

I work very hard throughout the year to develop a relationship with my students. The most important thing in developing this relationship is trust. My students need to know that I believe in them. They need to know that what I am teaching them is valuable to their lives. They need to know that I will always push them, but will never make them do something that is too hard or impossible to accomplish.

It is very important for me to know my students as learners. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, I work very hard to identify and focus on the positives. I try to find ways to capitalize on the strengths that they possess, and utilize those strengths to make an impact on the deficits. This requires continuous thought and reflection on my part. If one strategy doesn’t work, then I immediately try something else. Giving up on a student is never an option.

In my short career I have seen students make tremendous leaps, and I have watched students take very small steps. No matter what every accomplishment is celebrated. If students leave at the end of the year feeling confident in their abilities as learners, then progress has been made.

Often times teachers claim to believe that all students can learn, but they still see limits and boundaries based on deficits and disabilities. I believe that all students have unending possibilities to grow and be successful. Inside every child there is the capability to achieve great things. It is up to us, as teachers, to make sure that they believe in themselves enough to reach their fullest potential.