When teaching English as a Foreign Language, I often wondered whether I would work in an educational setting that provided such clear evidence of progress. When you take a first year class that speaks no English and help turn it into a group of kids almost all of whom pass the English language exit exam with good marks, there’s a definite sense of achievement.
Then I spent seven months working with autistic children.
A couple of the students finished the year as completely different children than when they started. Gains in reading ability, social interaction, verbal expression, math skills, and general life skills left me simply astounded, and understandably proud that I had something to do with it. (Seven Months)
Now, working with at-risk kids, I get a third example.
A young man came up to me the other day to tell me something.
When he first arrived, he spoke to me only when he absolutely had to, he cussed me out on a fairly regular basis, and he never, in any circumstances, looked me in the eye. He had trouble getting along with other kids, and if you judged him just from that, you’d come away thinking he was a fairly unpleasant person.
This time, his eyes wide with a big smile, he said, “I done something good today, but you didn’t see it.” He then told me about how he’d managed to keep his temper under control with another kid in the program whom he finds irritating.
It was the first time I’d ever seen pride in his face.