It's easy to get caught up in the stress this time of the year. I teach two of the three "tested" subjects for fourth grade. STAAR is right around the corner, and I would be lying if I said the pressure couldn't be felt. As much as people like to deny it, we all know that part of our job security rests in the performance of our students: it's a reflection of us.
There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, though, that most people don't have the privilege of seeing. I am one of the lucky few. I have had the joy of watching one of my students go from hating to write to simply plugging away. At the beginning of the year, she would literally cry during our writing assignments. "I don't know how to start my paper!" "Is this okay??" she would ask after almost every sentence she wrote. She would always ask me to read over her paper before she would turn it in. She learned really quickly that Mrs. Peña is as determined as she is. I always told her that I would most certainly read over her paper once she was confident in what she was turning in. I encouraged her to read over it herself and to ask others in the room to do so. At the beginning of this year, I had to all but tell her what to put into her graphic organizers because she was defeated before she ever began. "I'm not good at writing!" she'd try to convince me. I hugged her tight and told her, "I've heard the stories you tell. If you can talk, you can write."
Yesterday, we had to do TELPAS writing. She is not one of my ESL students, but they all have to complete the writing assignment so as not to isolate any students. This is literally all my students did...write to a prompt. My girl, the one who struggled to complete her writing just a few months ago, got to work with a smile on her face. She didn't ask for help finding a topic on which to write. She didn't ask me for help in finding supporting details. She completed her pre-writing COMPLETELY independently. The next thing I knew, she whispered my name and held up her paper. Before I looked, I told her, "I can't help you with this." She responded with an indignant, "No, Mrs. Peña! Look at how much I've ALREADY written!" Her face beamed. Her paper was completely full. Oh my word. My sweet girl. I smiled and even now as I sit here typing these words, I have tears in my eyes. She has overcome so much and she doesn't even realize it. She doesn't need me to get her started now. She doesn't need my reassurance that her writing is "good" because she knows it is. She no longer sheds tears but glows with a confident radiance of child who knows she is capable.
She finished her revisions with no guidance. As a matter of a fact, she finished everything without a peep. When she came to turn in her final draft, I just knew I'd have to tell her to go back and revise, but she already had done that!
Now, I, of course, want her to pass her STAAR. I want her to more than pass, but to soar with flying colors. BUT, in my heart of hearts, if she has a bad testing day and doesn't do well, I'm still proud. She has still touched my heart and made this teacher believe in what I am doing again. Thank you sweet, sweet girl for pushing through the hard times. Thank you for not giving up and for believing in yourself. Thank you for listening to this woman you could blow off and for buying into the truths I've been trying to pour into you. Don't let this world rob you of your confidence. Don't let them try to convince you that you can't, because baby girl, you CAN.
~She believed she could, so she did.