My essay takes the form of a letter to my adult students at the Academy of Hope in Washington, DC, where I currently serve as a member of AmeriCorps.
I often wonder why I’m the one standing in the front of the room. I’m not a naturally confident person. I have many fears. I constantly doubt myself. I’m a workaholic and a compulsive exerciser. I’m extremely sensitive. Also, I’ve suffered from clinical depression. Most people would assume that anyone who possessed this assortment of qualities would be a mess of a person and a terrible teacher. I hope, for your sake, that that is not the case.
I want you to know that I did not become a teacher on my own. My decisions to pursue English and education and to serve at the Academy of Hope this year were the result of encouragement from several very special people. Without Dan, Mary Wills, Alison, Diana, Kelly, Melissa, Scott, Omaar, Brian, and Yael, I would not have survived my transition to college, depression, living abroad, student-teaching, moving to DC, and joining a running team. They listened to me when I doubted myself, and they challenged me to keep going. I did not realize how much these people had impacted me until recently, yet I am convinced that without them I would not be a runner, a reader, a teacher, a volunteer, or a resident of DC.
For the past six months, I’ve had the privilege to teach you writing, poetry, and math. I can sense that a lot of you, like me, are not overflowing with self-confidence. Yet, you impress me with your dedication to school and your willingness to confront your weaknesses. Sometimes, you doubt yourselves. For example, when I asked one student to demonstrate her mastery of place value on a quiz, she resisted because she thought she didn’t know the material. I told her that she knew it, and I made her take the quiz despite her firm resistance. After she took it and performed well, she did her happy dance, moving her shoulders side to side and smiling a huge smile to express disbelief at her accomplishment.
Her case is not the only one; many of you have experienced something similar. To me, these instances serve as testaments to the power of believing in each other. It’s not that I think we need to reach certain goals to prove our worth to ourselves or to each other. But, it is an awesome thing when someone’s belief in our ability to grow propels us to accomplish something we previously thought impossible.
There are many things I would not have done if I had not been encouraged to do them. When I started teaching, I began to realize how much other people had helped me, simply by believing in me. I hope that we can continue to encourage and uplift each other, because believing in each other is immensely powerful.
Finally, I know you may not think yourselves remarkable, but I do. This I believe.