Throughout the course of the school year, there are moments that provide us vivid reminders of why we made this leap into education and why we wouldn’t choose another profession if our life depended on it. I asked one of our 5th grade teachers to “share out” how he made a difference for one particular student due to his tireless efforts, culture of high expectations, care and concern.
By Dean Calvaresi5th Grade, Knapp Elementary
Not judging others, realizing people make mistakes, giving everyone a fair chance, and not letting other people influence my perception of an individual.
|Dean Calvaresi (@MrCalvaresi)
These are things that cross my mind each September as I get a new group of students or when a new student moves into my class in the middle of the school year. Being an educator for over 25 years, I have certainly had my share of challenging students. However, with positive reinforcement, identifying the good qualities in my students, and realizing that everyone has “stuff,” I am able to make sure that all of my students get a fair chance and a great education; which leads me to one specific student with whom I had the privilege of working this past school year.
Three weeks after the school year began, a new student moved into my classroom. An African American student who began his education in an urban environment before moving to our school district, he experienced great difficulty with impulsive behaviors and bullying others, and had an extensive file documenting his behavioral difficulties. It only took me a day or two to realize the potential in this young man. He was someone, who with guidance and structure would have the ability to do great things. Academically, he was very strong and possessed many higher level thinking skills across the board. He had potential to be a strong leader, but he had difficulty relating to others and understanding his parameters.
Within a week of his arrival, I met with this student’s father and discussed my expectations for my classroom and set both academic and behavior goals. The student was present at the conference as well and participated in the decision making process. I used a communication folder, which was sent home each day, to track and communicate his behaviors to his parents. Incentives were put in place, but most importantly, this student knew that I cared. He needed a positive role model, and told me that for the first time in his life he had a teacher who liked him, understood him, and believed in him.
Communication with his family was very difficult because he was being pulled between two parental residences. I recommended this student to be tested for the Gifted Resource program in our school, and after months of trying to obtain a signature from his parents giving us permission to test, the student was tested and successfully qualified for the program. The day I told him the news with my principal standing by my side, he jumped up and down the hallway screaming, “Yes!” He threw his arms around me and wouldn’t let go, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” As my principal and I fought back tears, I knew the impact I made on this student. I told him how proud I was of him and assured him that big things will come his way as long as he keeps his behaviors in check and maintains focus.
Unfortunately, the student moved away suddenly and is no longer with me. I am hopeful that he will always remember the things that I taught him and will apply those skills to his daily life.
You can find Dean on Twitter as @MrCalvaresi. He is someone I’d recommend other teachers and parents follow, share with and learn from. He understands what it takes to meet students where they are, using a variety of strategies to engage them, with his main ingredient being solid teacher-student relationships. Mr. C knows his students and his families, and harnesses this knowledge in maximizing their potential throughout the school year. THIS is the kind of teacher I want for my own children.