In Your Words: What was your greatest classroom success?
In my three years of teaching special education, my greatest success was mainstreaming a kindergartener with autism to a general education classroom.
I challenged him when he needed to be challenged, and held back when he felt overwhelmed. Eventually, his academic scores exceeded grade level standards! Once in a while, I ask his current teacher how he’s doing. At one point, she said, “He’s one of my best students.”
La Habra, California
On Valentine’s Day a few years ago, the Wall Street Journal published my students’ work on the front page of the Marketplace section. They had written love poems with words they found in the Journal’s financial articles (an idea borrowed from teacher Chrissa Kuntz). I took the concept one step further by sending the poems to the editor-in-chief, who was so amused that he published 14 of them!
A former student I hadn’t seen in 15 years came to visit and share how important I was to him during his family’s struggles with his parents’ divorce. He said I was there for him as a constant source of encouragement and support, which ultimately guided his decision to become an elementary school teacher. We need to remember that teachers don’t teach only the academic subjects, we teach the whole child. We help to create the worker, the parent, the citizen of the future. This is an incredible profession. That is our success.
Vernon, New Jersey
I worked intensely for two consecutive days with a deeply troubled, non-communicative young man—who had been put out of just about every middle school in my district—when he asked me matter-of-factly, “Mrs. Sonnier, how old am I?” I knew his age, and I answered his question. He said, “No, how old am I?” I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I asked him to tell me. He said, “Two days old...yesterday and today.” I still get teary-eyed when I think about this.
Success in my English classroom occurs when that “special” essay appears! My eyes tear as I read of a boy—the man of his family since his dad’s death—who now dreads participating in his mother’s second wedding. I mourn the death of my own father, who never had the chance to say good-bye, as another young man describes how his dad, a cancer patient, teaches his son how to dock their boat, preparing him for the fatherless days ahead. I smile as one young girl praises how her mom—the mother of eight—always takes the time to make her feel special. I laugh as I recall a recent favorite—a simple account of a boy and his bike.
Marcia K. de la Cerda
Randolph, New York
Lizzie, a fifth-grader, was having trouble spelling “success.” As I glanced down at the dictionary she held, I could see why. “Oh, no, Lizzie,” I explained, “it’s not ‘secs,’ it’s ‘sucs.’” The entire class erupted. My success in teaching has its foundation in laughter, and that day I knew I had found success!
Melanie L. Babendreier
West Newbury, Massachusetts
Tell us about your most embarrassing classroom moment!
Don’t be shy — your tale could brighten the day for colleagues who’ve had their share of embarrassment! Please use specific examples and anecdotes, and we’ll consider your submission for an upcoming issue of NEA Today.