With 23 years of classroom experience, I've had the privilege of working with a LOT of incredible kids . . . many of whom deserve shout-outs, kudos, and recognition for their selflessness, their innovation, their creativity, and their diligent work. It's difficult to narrow this post down, but the kids that keep coming to mind as I write this are some incredible 7th and 8th graders I recently worked with in a district with the highest poverty rate and lowest graduation rate in my state. It's heart-breaking how the odds seem stacked against some kids. Nearly every one of my students had multiple family members in jail or prison -- including one or both parents. Very few had a single family member who had graduated from high school. None of them knew anyone who had ever gone to college (except their teachers). Many of them did not have adequate heat, food, or love in their homes. Yet these kids had more motivation, determination, and tenacity than many students I've taught in affluent districts with all the privileges and luxuries one could hope for in life.
What I loved most about them was their never-ending sense of camaraderie, compassion, and empathy. Together, we chose community service projects for every unit we studied over the course of two years. In that short time, these kids collected Pennies for Peace, care package items for local homeless shelters and women's shelters, care packages for Soldier's Angels, and books for students in younger grades. We sent holiday cards to service members, created handmade quilts for soldiers, and sent boxes of books, food, and toiletries to our local Ronald McDonald House. The students appealed to local garden centers and nurseries for plants, flowers, and soil and we spent one entire "field day" cleaning up and beautifying a local elementary playground. Here we are planning our playground project at a "working lunch":
|Photos used with permission|
These kids, who seemingly had so little to spare, found more to give in those two years than any group of students I've worked with prior or since. They gave from their hearts, and their selflessness, kindness, and earnest compassion touched me as well as those who benefitted from their precious gifts. These are the moments and memories that keep teachers going with enthusiasm when days get tough! I'm so grateful for the hundreds of incredible kids I've met and worked with over the years . . . though I haven't seen many of them in eons, they still inspire me every day!
Visit other blogs in the Secondary Smorgasbord to hear about more incredible kids!