Am I doing enough? Can I help this student truly make progress considering all that is against him? I recently came to this crossroads in my mind when assessing the academic progress of one of my students. He has continually struggled from the day he came into my class in all academic areas. He came to me from a third world country where his attendance in elementary school was infrequent due to the lack of a structured education system. Due to his age, he was placed in fifth grade, however, academically he continues to read at a third grade level. In math, he just learned subtraction and is still trying to master basic multiplication facts. His language skills are also well below grade level expectations, so it is difficult to communicate with him even with help from a bilingual peer. Despite all that is against him, he is trying hard and wants to catch up to his classmates. He diligently completes extra reading and math assignments I provide for him nightly with the help of a student from another class who so graciously volunteered to help him. He attends intervention groups with other staff members daily. He told me his goal is to walk across the stage and receive an award at one of our academic assemblies before the year is over.

As I was working with him along with a small group of students on how to add and subtract fractions using common denominators, I noticed something amazing. He actually began to help another student solve the problem. For the first time this year, he was the one offering the help. Although the other student had a hard time at first understanding him, she eventually comprehended what he had tried to show her. I congratulated him for not giving up and sticking with the lesson even though it had been difficult for him. I was also proud of him for making the effort to courageously communicate in English. Although the road ahead this year will continue to be a challenge for him, I feel a sense of hope in the fact he has made a turn in the right direction and that he is making progress on his academic journey.

LIFE LESSON: When at a crossroads in our way of thinking, we have two basic choices: YES, I CAN or NO, I CAN’T. Sometimes it is easy to get discouraged and make the decision to quit. Other times it takes people and experiences placed in our lives to help us believe we are moving in the right direction. I’m so grateful for being in an environment where I’m reminded with simple, but powerful examples like this one, that with Jesus’ help – YES, I CAN!

“I command you – be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9