38: I Believe in You

38: I Believe in You

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

I Believe in You

To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will.

~Sugar Ray Robinson

Our class was preparing for the sixth grade Olympics, a campus-wide event at our large middle school, with close to twenty classes participating. Leading up to the Olympics, the students needed to choose their track and field events.

I could have just posted a sign-up sheet and saved myself time and effort, but instead I took the time to sit down with the students individually and ask which events they would like to try. Most students were beaming with excitement and told me right away.

But this was not the case with Eric, a child with special needs who was mainstreamed into our class and often bullied around campus. When I met with Eric, he looked down and mumbled that the only thing he could do was throw a Frisbee a little. “The Frisbee it is,” I told him with a smile, trying to meet his eyes. “I believe in you, Eric — I know you can do it!”

On the first day of the event, my students were scattered all over the ball fields as they participated in their individual events. I quickly sought out Eric and stood alongside him for support as he waited for his turn. Eric stepped up, took a deep breath, and threw the Frisbee just far enough to tie for eighth place and earn a half point for our team. I gathered a few students, and we celebrated his success together.

At the end of the second day of events, the physical education teachers totaled up all the points and assembled the classes for the awards ceremony. Coach Kenny, the P.E. teacher who led the event, shook his head with a smile, and said to all the sixth graders and teachers: “In the history of our school, we’ve never had an Olympics that has ended this close.” Then he announced that our class had won… by an astonishing half a point!

The class went absolutely bananas as we ran to the stage in celebration. I truly felt like I had witnessed a miracle.

When we got back to our classroom, I told my students that I would like to reveal the MVP of our class’s team, without whose efforts we would not have won the entire event. Everyone’s heads turned toward our pentathlete, Parker, who had finished first in his events and earned many points for our team.

Instead, I called Eric to the front of the classroom. I explained that without Eric’s perseverance and his half point, we would not have earned first place. The entire class gave Eric a standing ovation — clearly the first in his life.

A few days later, Eric’s mom pulled me aside and said, “I don’t know what you said to my son, but for the past two weeks he has practiced every day throwing a Frisbee against the fence in the back yard.” She thanked me for giving him something to strive for.

I have based the core of my teaching philosophy on these four words: “I believe in you.” When children know their teacher believes in them, they are free to take chances, to open up to learning, and to begin to believe in themselves. I only have to think of Eric to know how important this is.

~Martin Reisert

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