We Can’t Give Up On Kids: A Story Of Success

As educators, we all know that we shouldn’t give up on kids. I would like to believe that none of us ever do. And yet, sometimes, we honestly feel as though we’ve tried everything — every approach, every suggestion, every strategy — and nothing seems to work. While we might not intentionally give up on kids, it’s in these situations that we might start to question if our time could be better spent trying to move another child forward. From a reading lens, could this child be one of the few who might not learn to read?

Then Wednesday happened … I knew that I had to write up this story. It was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had as an educator, and I just got to witness it.

I think that Jodie, one of the consultants in our Board, summed things up so well about why this reading approach worked.

As magical as this experience felt, it was a combination of intentional moves that made the difference for this child. It was also thanks to a classroom educator who cares so incredibly deeply about all of her students and found a way to not give up on any of them. I’ve been involved as part of this process, but she deserves so much of the kudos for this reading breakthrough.

Another week is upon us, and likely all educators will be faced with at least one child who’s struggling in some way. Maybe we all need to hear this story of success to remind us that progress might be slow, but it’s always possible. What are your special stories? These stories of growth might not always be captured in a report card mark, but through our anecdotes, we can still find ways to celebrate.


How Will They Remember You?

I was just out walking the dog, when I heard a person behind me: “Oh my gosh! Miss Dunsiger. Is that you?” I turned around. I saw a businessman doing some sales in the area. He looked in his early twenties. I didn’t recognize the face, but I knew that I would recognize the name if he gave it to me … and he did.

Always waiting for a belly rub. 🙂

Wow! This was a student that I taught almost 10 years ago now. He challenged me in many ways, but also made me grow — possibly the most as an educator — thanks to those challenges. I ran into his parents pre-COVID, and they updated me a bit on how he was doing. Now I got the longer version, as my dog ran around his feet and begged for a belly rub. 🙂 This former student was honestly just so thrilled to see me again and to update me on his life and family. He said he was actually talking about me to his parents not that long ago, so he was excited to tell them that he ran into me.

This had me stop and pause. It’s actually what caused me to come home, open up my computer, and blog. As I mentioned before, he was not always the easiest student to teach, but I was determined to connect with him … as I did with my other students. Yes, I made mistakes. But as he excitedly asked me for a hug out on the road today, I kept thinking about these questions:

  • How will kids remember you?
  • Be in five years, ten years, or many more years down the line, will they stop you to say, “hello?”
  • Will they share their lives and stories with you?
  • And will they believe that you care?

Twenty-two years into the game, I really hope that more stop me as this former student did. As educators, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact on so many lives. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, down the road, we’ll hear that we did just that. March Break can’t get much more wonderful than this!


Birthday Math And Then Some …

As I’ve blogged about before, I always start my day nice and early with a variety of language and math games to get my brain thinking and to help make me ready to learn. This morning, it was the Nerdle games that had me thinking about a math challenge of my own. I sent out this tweet before school today.

Kory Graham shared a reply first, and it was through our conversation that I began to think more about how we maximize small moments to get kids thinking.

I’m not necessarily saying that I would give this riddle to the students that I teach, but for some students, you could give it to them. In the past, if a child asked how old I was (a question that is often asked first when kids figure out that it’s your birthday), I’ve always given them clues. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that can’t resist a math or literacy connection.

This made me think about an unrelated story from the other day. Back at the end of October, I blogged about how I bonded with a couple of students over basketball. These two are constantly looking for me when I’m on duty, so that they can do a little dribbling with me. For a while now, we’ve had blacktop, walk-and-talk, no equipment recesses because of an icy or muddy field. These couple of students are very upset that we can’t play basketball, and they talk to me about it every time that they see me in the hallway or outside. Recently, they stopped me in the hallway to discuss basketball. This time, I replied differently than I usually do. I said,

“When we can go back on the field again, write me a note to ask to play basketball. I’ll pick a day that I don’t have duty, and I’ll come out to play with you. I’ll even write you back!”

They promised to do so. Another teacher was in the hallway as I was chatting with these boys, and she later started to chuckle while saying, “You will always find a way to work in that reading and writing … won’t you?!” And the truth is, I do. Maybe it’s my years in kindergarten with the fairy notes of the past, but I just can’t resist finding or creating the learning in small moments.

How do you turn these snippets of the day into learning opportunities? What might be some benefits in doing so? Sometimes we can plan long lessons and in-depth activities, and sometimes we can work a language or math opportunity into an unplanned conversation. Maybe we need both of these learning experiences in our classrooms and schools. What do you think?


Unwrapping The Gift Of A PA Day

Yesterday’s PA Day was a gift.

  • An opportunity to listen to and reflect on student voices: both through an incredible, heart-felt student presentation and those collected on paper by our amazing Learning Commons teaching team.
  • An opportunity to share. We heard from staff that are trying new programs, attempting different things in their classrooms, experiencing success, and inspiring change.
  • An opportunity to solve problems. We can always acknowledge issues, but now, we’re moving beyond just an acknowledgment. What can we try differently right away? What might we reconsider for the future?
  • An opportunity to connect as a staff and build a school community. Our school is huge. It’s bigger than many high schools in our Board. Rarely are there opportunities to sit down, mingle with, and really talk to other educators. Yesterday, we had this time. Yesterday, I actually got to sit in the staffroom for 40 minutes and enjoy lunch. Yesterday, I got to talk to people who I rarely get to connect with, while also spending more quality time with others.

Yesterday was a gift, and I’m not alone in leaving the PA Day inspired by new possibilities, reflecting on my own practice (how might I hear and respond to student voice even more?), and ready to co-teach with other K-2 educators in the week ahead. A huge thank you to our whole administrator team — Suzie, Lori, and Tyler — who all worked together to share stories, listen to educators, respond to ideas, and provide leadership opportunities for staff. Driving home from a PA Day with a renewed sense of passion and purpose is truly a gift, and I hope that others felt the same. Thinking back to PA Day experiences, how have administrators and educators helped you feel joy and excitement in new possibilities? What impact has this had on you as an educator? We are heading into the week before March Break, and I’m smiling because of the new opportunities that this week brings. What about you?