Something really cool happened today. I’ve worked with a student for as long as I’ve been at my school. You know how you have some kids who grab your heartstrings and stick with you long after they’re gone? This is going to be that kid for me.
He’s one of those kids that I see parts of myself in –
the kind of kid that pushes boundaries,
that doesn’t accept the answers that everyone else gives them,
who cares more about what people think than he lets on.
He’s also the kind of kid that doesn’t really fit the school mold –
who only needs 1 example before being able to teach the class,
what I like to call a tipping point kid:
the kind with amazing potential to radically change the world around him for better or for worse.
He’s the kind of kid that his teachers will never forget,
and the kind of kid that that makes my job as a school social worker so incredibly difficult –
yet so amazingly worth it.
He hates school. I’m going to say “hates” because I know he still does hate the traditional definition – the routines, the expectations, the boundaries, all of it. But this week was the start of something different for him. Here are some of the things that changed:
– ability to go to higher grade levels during certain times of the day to learn more advanced material
– doing projects to show knowledge, rather than worksheets, repetition, and readings,
– allowing him to choose what information is learned and how his knowledge is presented
A lot of the strategies we’ve implemented this week are common knowledge to gifted educators and well-read parents of gifted students, but with the current assessment-based focus in the American education system, gifted students often get left to fend for themselves. But that’s another topic for another time.
While visiting with him at the end of the day today, he looked at me and asked if he could use his reward points to come down to my room with his project partner to work on it because their group was behind. I’m sure I looked absolutely ridiculous when I asked him if he was serious. He just smiled at me and said, “Can I just come down during lunch? I don’t want to miss class!” That about did it for me. It’s a good thing I was sitting in a kindergarten chair because I probably would have fallen out of anything taller!
Today was one of those days that I went home with a feeling that can’t be fully understood except by those who have experienced it. It’s the moment where I (almost!) wish I didn’t have to wait 2 days to go back to work. Today was the day that he took education for himself and felt he could make it his own, that he realized that school doesn’t have to be what he always thought it was, that he realized that looking like a “traditional student” was less important than just being a learner.
I’ve never really understood why people always tell me, “Oh my…I could never do your job! How on earth can you be a school social worker? You’re going straight to heaven!” Because for me, it’s less about the difficulties of it and more about the fact that I cannot imagine myself existing and doing anything else. It’s a completeness and an indescribable feeling of joy I get when I see smiles, “lightbulb moments,” and astonishment in the faces of my students. Sure I have days I want to turn off the lights, lock my office door, and curl up in the corner, but how can I possibly find anything else more rewarding and fulfilling than this!?
Why do YOU do it?