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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 ( is a 2011 Teach for America Corps member and seventh grade Social Studies teacher at Summerour Middle School in Gwinnett County. 

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Elizabeth,

    As I struggle to find “just the right words” to convince a group of Atlanta’s emerging leaders tomorrow to invest themselves in re-imagining the possibilities for education and the children of Atlanta, I read your post and think: This is all they need to hear. Why? Because like I, your second cousin, they will be humbled. Humbled with the beauty of your words, the incredible persistence and commitment, and the depth of your love. You shine light in dark woods.

    My wish for you tonight? That your students continue to surprise you. They are merely reflecting the possibility that a very special someone has shown them.

    Keep believing.

    A warm hug from across town.


    November 9, 2011
  2. Beautiful. And true. The “urgency and critical nature of YOUR job mandates an unceasing determination and fortitude” that not only makes it “worth it” but also makes your classroom, your school, and I believe, the city and our world a better place.

    The only words are these two: thank you.

    November 9, 2011
  3. mark #

    that is awesome. you get why we do this. to change kids lives. its not about scores though. its about connections with kids and making them great.

    November 9, 2011
  4. Ms. Weaver,

    You are making a difference. Never doubt it. Transformational change takes place over time and is the cumulative effect of a thousand tiny, intentional deposits. Exhausting work indeed, but worth it.

    As educators, we (in addition to their parents) have the honor and responsibility of preparing kids for the 21st century. How do we prepare kids for jobs and challenges that do not even exist yet? Is it more important that our children memorize the periodic table of the elements or that they have marketable skills such as leadership, creativity, teamwork, critical thinking and the ability to communicate effectively? We must be passionate about preparing all students to be not just college ready, but globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders.

    Your story reminds me of my first days of teaching. A veteran teacher told me on day one, Beware of dream assassins.” I applaud your passion and dare you to dream even bigger. I challenge you to set goals for your students that go far beyond achieving test scores.

    Chip Houston
    Director of Admissions

    November 15, 2011
  5. Amazing! Sometimes we get so caught-up in trying to ‘measure’ whether or not we’ve made a difference, that we forget the things that really matter cannot ever be measured. I believe that everything happens for a reason and at the appointed time. Just when you were doubting yourself and whether you were doing a good job, your student gave you all the confirmation you needed! Isn’t the Universe simply amazing??? Keep up the great work and never, never forget that your presence makes a difference for a lot of kids, even if they don’t tell you.


    November 28, 2011

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