Saturday, June 28, 2014

Student Successes ~ Celebrate!

"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value." ~Albert Einstein

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally." ~David Frost

We all want our students to be successful, but what do we measure that by? Do we value the success of a good test score or grade over the personal growth and accomplishments of each individual? Success is not always measured in a straight line.

As part of the #MOedchat blog group, this week's challenge is to share a story of success from this past school year. I think it's important to celebrate success, and even what can seem like small successes can eventually build into amazing stories of change. I hope to take the time to STOP during my busy day to celebrate successes more next year.

One celebration of success that I would like to share from this past school year was of a young girl that joined my class from Colombia, South America. She was visiting Iowa for a year to stay with her relatives, learn more English, and take part in her own "family cultural exchange" program which meant that she would be leaving her school, her friends, and her family for a whole year. While it's fairly common to have high school foreign exchange students, I'm not aware of the prevalence of this practice among 10 year olds.

We met at our annual Meet the Teacher Night the week before school began. Accompanied by her aunt and uncle, she was definitely timid and spoke no more than a simple, "Hello." I knew she probably had some English exposure at her school in Colombia, but I honestly couldn't judge whether or not she understood me, but I managed to show her where her desk was and a few things she might want to know for the first day of school. A few hand gestures and smiles later, I felt an overwhelming feeling that I should have chosen Spanish as my foreign language class in high school (Sigh).

It took some time, but she slowly came out of her shell. She made a lot of friends, shared her love of music & singing, and learned a lot about the English language. While her writing (often full of incorrect verb tense and incomplete sentences) lacked the sophistication of many of her peers, she gained confidence in sharing her work with the class. And while she wasn't the most fluent reader in the room, she enjoyed reading and talking about her books with her friends. 

The growth and accomplishments that this young girl achieved during her 4th grade year in America were admirable. Even though I don't see test scores as the most important thing in education, but rather just one piece of a child's educational learning puzzle, I was pleased and amazed to learn that my young Colombian student earned a high enough score over four categories (listening, speaking, reading, & writing) to be eligible to exit the ESL program at the end of the school year. It's those less-known successes that resonate with me ....a child that makes growth despite big challenges.

It was hard to say good-bye knowing she wouldn't just be "down the hall" in the next grade this fall. The fact is, she's a few thousand miles away and I may not ever see her again. The experiences we shared and the successes she achieved will still hold a special place in my heart for years to come. Her smile and enthusiasm filled up the room, and that is what I'll remember (and miss) most about her. 


  1. What a great story of success and blessing. She was blessed to have you as a teacher, and you were blessed to have her as a student. You provided a foundation for her successful year, and future as well.

  2. What a blessing you were to this young leady, and what a testament to the fact that relationships are important. You have a gift to "see" beyond the outside and encourage - which allows blessings to flow both ways!

  3. Your student was successful in large part because she had a teacher who cared about her. She had you! And her success was not just in her skills and test scores, but in her growth in confidence. Thanks for reminding us all about the role we play in uplifting and encouraging our students. They take away so much more than grades from their time in our classrooms.

  4. Who says teachers don't make a difference? You sure did!