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His Smile

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I consider myself fairly effective at my job. On most occasions I am able to connect with children and have a positive impact on their day. But there are times, no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to connect. And it frustrates me. I know I shouldn't take it personally. But I do, because that is how I am wired.

Then again, I've done this long enough to know that some children respond better to certain people. I'm okay with that. As long as I know that each child has that person. Yet, what do we do when we realize that a particular child has yet to find that person with whom they can connect? That person that they respond to. That person that brings out the best in them.

That was definitely the case with one such child at the beginning of this school year. This year was starting off just like last year ended up. Not well. This young man would become angry and oftentimes he had good reason to be. But once he did, he would lock up and not let us in. It was very frustrating. I tried and tried and still I could not connect with him.

And to this day I still haven't.

But someone else has.

His teacher.

She has connected with him and it has made all of the difference in the world. At this point you might be wondering how, why, when? To be quite honest, I don't know. What I do know is that she has been spending time with him on the weekends. Bonding. Connecting. Having fun engaging in non-school related activities. Even her duty-free lunch period is spent eating with him and a few of his friends. Because she knows that a cafeteria full of students and noise can be difficult for him.

So when did this change occur? I honestly have no idea. If I had to guess, I would say it has been gradually taking place over the last couple of months. But this week something happened that inspired me to share this story. It needed to be told because it shows what can happen when one person is relentless. And doesn't ever give up. No matter how tired. No matter how frustrated. No matter what else may be going on around her.

She never gave up. And what happened this past week was a result of one teacher's belief and confidence in her student's ability. She knew his best was yet to come. And this week it did! This week, a young man who previously would not even sit for an entire math test, sat and earned a 100%!

He felt so good about it. He felt so good about himself. You could see it. You could feel it. The whole school felt it and celebrated. These are the types of victories that often go unnoticed outside of our four walls. Because they are singular in nature. Yet, it is these individual victories that fuel us. They are the ones that we must be on the look-out for. And when we find them we must shout them from the rooftops.

That is what this piece is meant to do. Because this teacher could have easily kept her weekends to herself. No doubt she deserved the time to rest. And she could choose to eat lunch by herself or with her colleagues. I do.

But instead she chooses not to. And it has made all the difference in the world to a child who, for the first time in his life, truly believes in himself. Because of her.

Will he ever slip? Of course. We all do. But now when he does, he knows that her hand will be right there, to pull him back up.

It just so happened that Friday evening I saw this young man with his family in the parking lot of a local business. I rolled down my window and congratulated him again on his 100%. His smile was spectacular! Of course I will never forget the fact that he earned a perfect score on his math test. But that will soon be averaged in with his other grades. The zeroes will disappear and the one will be a thing of the past.

And to be quite honest, with all that goes on in the course of a school year it is possible that I may even forget his test score. But I am certain that there is one thing I won't ever forget.

His smile.









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Jon is currently the assistant principal in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is his seventh year serving as an assistant principal at the elementary level. Prior to becoming an administrator he served as a Math Coach and an elementary school teacher. During his ten years as a classroom teacher he taught first, second, fourth and fifth grades. During his sixth year teaching he earned Nationally Board Certification, which he held for ten years. For seven years he ran a Young Gentleman's Club that was aimed at helping young men reach their full potential.  

Jon received a B.A. from Furman University while majoring in Philosophy. He later went on to earn his B.S from Salisbury University while majoring in Elementary Education. Jon was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to student teach in New Zealand. He eventually received his M.A. degree from Salisbury University in Public School Administration.

Jon lives in Cambridge, Maryland with his amazing wife and two awesome children.

  • Guest
    Allyson Apsey Sunday, 21 February 2016

    Jon, What a wonderful example of the powerful positive impact we can have on our students. What a gift this teacher is to him. As a leader, you stepped back and allowed the teacher to take the lead because you know it is not about you, it is about the students. Thank you for the inspiration and for sharing this story!

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