‘Today, reality hit me straight in the face. It hit me by a 6-year-old holding a box of Ziplocs.’: Teacher receives special gift from student, re-examines idea of ‘success’

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“Well today I realized something that most educators won’t agree with. It’s okay if my students leave my classroom NOT reading and writing on level.

Want me to be honest? Today was rough. I don’t cry and I cried 5 times today. I was ready to crawl in a daggum hole. Sometimes or most of the time, as a teacher you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You feel if not everyone of your kids leaves reading and writing on level, that you have done a disservice to them. You feel like you not only failed your students, but the parents, the next teachers, the administrators, etc. You feel like a failure because you didn’t read every day with every student (which is impossible). You feel like a failure because not every student showed huge academic gain. You feel like you shouldn’t be a teacher because your classrooms academic data doesn’t look like the classroom across the hall. You feel like you have set a kid up to fail because they didn’t read a non fiction level 16 with the proper comprehension and text to self connection. You feel the weight of their future on your shoulders.

But today, reality hit me at the end of the day straight in the face. Reality hit me by a 6 year old holding a box of ziplocs.

‘Miss Pearson. I have you something.’

She hands me this box.

‘Thank you so much! What are they for?’

‘Miss Pearson, before Christmas you said you were out of Ziploc bags at home. I saw your sandwich and chips in the same bag. Nobody needs that. That’s gross. Plus, when we need something, you get it. When we lose our glue, you may not be happy but you get us another one. Or when Joe eats his pencils, you tell him it’s wrong but you still give him more. You told us if we love people, we show them. You said real leaders show people. I just want to show you.’

At this point I was sobbing for the 5th time. Why? Because yes I care if they read but today I realized it’s okay if they cannot read and write at an unrealistic level because when they leave my classroom, they leave better than they came. It’s okay if my kids can’t retell every non fiction book and make text to world connections because they leave with a tender heart. Sure, the world needs better readers and writers but our world really needs softer hearts, eager hearts, and willing hearts. Our world needs kids who observe more and learn from it. Our world needs more compassion. So my kids may not all be on level when they leave me but they all leave me knowing they can be better and that they have the potential within to make this world better.

So I’d rather have a class leave with a heart that loves others than with the ability to read a DRA 16. Because those ziploc bags mean more to me than an entire class on grade level. Anyone can teach them to read but not everyone will teach them to care.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Pearson. Submit your story here. For our best stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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