You and I have likely never met.
Yet, I believe in you.
I believe in the vast potential you possess.
I believe you are capable of great things – even greater than you yourself may have imagined.
Without knowing you at all – I believe in you – because I believe in the limitless potential of the human spirit.
We are all capable of incredible things.
Every single one of us.
Our potential is not defined by circumstances or obstacles.
It is defined by our choices and our courage to keep going.
When we believe in ourselves, follow our passions, work hard, and make room for lots of mistakes our capacity has no boundaries.
The same is true of every student we encounter.
Every student has infinite capacity.
There are truly no limits on learning.
Except those that we decide to accept.
Some students come into our classrooms so ready for success.
They are a bit like weeds and seem to thrive and grow with very little nurturing and in spite of our blunders and inadequacies.
Sometimes we make the dangerous mistake of taking their success as evidence of our own.
But I believe the opposite is true.
I believe the hardest-to-teach and hardest-to-love are the ones who have the most to offer us on our own journeys toward greatness.
These are the students who help us to stretch, and strive, and grow in our efforts to become better teachers today than we were yesterday, better still by next year than we were last year.
These are the students who provide the richest evidence of our own commitment to success for all.
Success for all does not begin with a mission statement.
It does not begin by bringing data to a PLC meeting.
Success for all begins in each individual educator’s soul.
It begins or ends with what we decide to believe or disbelieve about the potential of our students.
It is nurtured through the brave question, “What else can I try?”
It flourishes with the relentless determination to never give up – even on the most challenging of learners.
It suffers and wilts under destructive nature of labels, stereotypes, preconceived notions and snap judgements about what is out of reach for some kids.
And, although it begins on the inside, what we believe about our students is never kept a secret.
It always ends up showing through on the outside.
It is apparent to our students, and to everyone around, from the moment we first meet.
When we don’t have much confidence in them . . . it shows. They know.
When we believe in them and expect great things of them . . .it shows. They know.
What we believe about our students seeps out of us in our eyes, our words, our tone, our silence, our actions, our inactions.
What we believe on the inside shapes the narrative that will inevitably play out on the outside.
Yes. Proof will certainly present itself to reinforce whatever it is we decide to believe about our students and ourselves.
So, what will we choose to believe?
Will we truly believe all of our students are capable of limitless learning this year?
Will we believe that we are the kind of educators that can make a difference for every student?
Or will we tell ourselves that success is out of reach for some because of the obstacles we know are in the path?
Will we dare to embrace the hard-to-love and hard-to-teach?
Or will we choose to use labels and categories as permission to expect less of ourselves on behalf of some students?
Will we relentlessly push to keep becoming better versions of ourselves?
Or will we settle for a fixed definition of our capabilities?
Success for all or success for just some?
Each of us decides day-by-day, word-by-word, action-by-action whether success for all is a fairytale-feel-good phrase or a true way of life in our schools
We choose success for all when . . .
- We truly believe our own human capacity for new learning is limitless.
- We create schools that are communities of kindness, caring, and respect for all despite our differences.
- We stretch ourselves past the comfort zone of “what last year’s kids got” into the courageous work of “what this year’s kids need”.
- We build scaffolds and bridges that make different paths to common outcomes possible.
- We celebrate struggles and mistakes as learning opportunities rather than embarrassments to be avoided.
- We commit to teach life skills like persistence, bravery and civility with the same zeal as we teach academic content.
As terrifying as it may be, we are the deciding factor in our schools.
When we meet our students’ eyes, the potential we see reflects right back to them.
We are a mirror of messages.
What messages are we reflecting?