By Kim Smith-Robbins
I’m in my 11th year as an elementary teacher in an inner city school district. I’ve taught in the inner city since the day I was hired. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it and honestly, I can’t think of a place I’d rather work. Having said that, this is, without a doubt, the most difficult work I could ever imagine. There are days where I question the professional path I’ve chosen and whether or not I can continue the path.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
In those moments when I don’t think I can do it any longer, this verse sticks with me. Then, I’m quickly reminded why I do what I do.
I adore my students…every single one of them. They have all touched me in some way. However, on the first day of school in 2013, I met a student who would forever change my life. This little first grader taught me so much; probably as much as I taught him… . No. He taught me more.
When he came to me, I quickly learned that our year together probably wouldn’t be easy. This little guy had more diagnoses than anyone I’d ever met. I had never heard of several of his disabilities and it seemed as if no one could help me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.
Our months together were filled with constant noise making, echoing, and yelling, but at the same time, no real communication was happening. Days, weeks and months passed without a true conversation happening. At the end of each day, I felt defeated with the realization that this child needed WAY more than I could possibly give. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree in Education, but I was completely unprepared for this experience…that was a hard realization to face.
If you know me, you know that I am determined and I certainly will not give up on one of “my kids.” After a while, the intervention specialist and I realized that we had only one choice…we absolutely had to find a way to make this little guy succeed even if we didn’t really know where to start.
So, I decided to do what I could and I threw myself into researching disorders that I had never heard of prior to meeting this special boy. I reached out to anyone who could possibly help me. I devoted every single second of my workday into helping him become a communicator while still teaching every other student in my classroom. While all this was happening, I realized that my other students were learning valuable lessons beyond reading and math. They also were learning about patience, love, and compassion. Because of my example, they accepted and loved this little guy as much as I did.
I will never forget the first day that this student truly started communication with me. I had been sick and stayed home from school for several days. When I came back, he walked into my room and said, “Mrs. Robbins…you are back. You are not sick anymore. I missed you.”
At that moment, I realized that I had done something huge.
I made a difference.
I am doing more than just teaching reading and math.
I am changing lives and nothing will keep me from that.