edu180atl: elizabeth weaver 11.9.11
“Am I making a difference?” Since I began teaching four months ago, this question has rung hollow in my thoughts on a daily basis. It did not take me long to realize that the idealistic “Freedom Riders” scenario I had envisioned would not be an immediate outcome. Despite countless hours of planning, grading, organizing, conferencing, and pouring every ounce of myself into my students, I could not shake the thought that constantly haunted me: “Am I making a transformational difference in my students’ lives?” Our classroom goals screamed loudly on the neon yellow signs posted on my trailer walls: 100% of students will pass the CRCT, Students will become self-advocates for their long-term education, etc. I believed these goals were achievable for my students with every fiber of my exhausted, overworked being, but had my students internalized these dreams for themselves?
It took a soft-spoken yet mighty seventh grade voice to remind me why I teach. “Ms. Weaver,” she said just before bus dismissal, “This weekend I told my parents and five brothers that I want to be the first person in our family to go to college.” In an instant, my heart swelled, my mission was re-affirmed, and my purpose clarified; all the hours of planning, forsaken sleep, frustrations, and feelings of self-doubt became obsolete. THIS is why I teach. Today I learned (yet again) that the urgency and critical nature of my job mandates an unceasing determination and fortitude that make it all “worth it.”
Elizabeth Weaver (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a 2011 Teach for America Corps member and seventh grade Social Studies teacher at Summerour Middle School in Gwinnett County.