One Person Can Make All The Difference

Courtesy of George Eastman House

A child will spend the most hours of his/her day in school, surrounded by other children and the only adult around is usually a teacher. The influence a teacher can have over a student is often not recognized by society. The teacher can be the one person to make the difference in a student’s life; it is essential for a teacher to be aware of the impact he/she makes on the children who look up to them as a role model.

Children are blind to the way society marginalizes minorities. They are not aware of being seen differently by the members of the society they live in, even if they feel it, they do not identify it as such. Academic education is an important aspect of each child’s life. How can a teacher positively impact a student? This question has been answered throughout our readings in the course. The most important aspect of teaching is being confident about your student’s capacity to learn and perform well in school. If a teacher is not confident and doesn’t support his/her students, how can we expect the student to succeed?

In high school, I met John; he was a shy boy who always spoke negatively about his schoolwork. Since the beginning, he told me how he didn’t even try to complete his assignments because he knew that he wasn’t capable of doing so. I would ask him why and he would also say “I can’t do it.” As we talked more, I learned that he had ADD and Dyslexia. He was classified at a first grade level because he had problems paying attention in class (although, everyone failed to notice that his parents were going through a divorce that was affecting his emotional and psychological well-being). Doctors and teachers rushed to give him the identity of a student with “special needs”, a title that followed him to high school. Learning his story, I realized that no one had ever given attention to him simply because he had the stigma of not having the capacity to perform. Sadly, he truly believed that he was not capable of completing his work and eventually graduating high school (especially since he was a minority so even less support was given to him).

It is upsetting to see how the adults in a student’s life can have such an effect on the confidence and performance of an individual. Luckily, with my help and the help of a mentor he found, he was able to defy the odds. He graduated with a 3.8 accumulative GPA (after starting high school with mostly D’s), and went on to the University of Washington with a full honors scholarship.

John was lucky; he found the support he needed at the beginning of high school when he still had time to excel and go on to college. But what happens to the other students that don’t have that chance? It is appalling to think that a teacher or doctor could claim that a child will fail at an early age of six, when the child has not even had the chance to grow and without considering the social environment that surrounds that child. Teachers can make a difference in a child’s life if they pay attention; hopefully the difference is positive.

One response to “One Person Can Make All The Difference

  1. Manoush, just as you mentioned how students are often blind to how structural as well as interpersonal discrimination affects them, it is unbelievable how some teachers are also blind to that too. Just as Cristina Igoa mentions in The Inner World of the Immigrant Child, education policy makers and teachers in American public schools need to gain a wider understanding of their immigrant students’ backgrounds in order to help them succeed as many may struggle with considerable difficulties in a new country and school. We must understand that a teacher’s job goes beyond dictating a specific lesson, they are counselors, mentors, role-models, and researchers who have the ability to help or hinder a students’ academic success.

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