If I had to choose one thing to represent what I believe holds true for all children, no matter where you are or what you may be teaching, it would be a mantra that I came up with a few years ago (with the help of a cousin who once taught in school). It goes like this:
I AM SOMEBODY
I AM SOMEBODY
I AM SOMEBODY
I CAN LEARN
I WILL LEARN
I WILL ACHIEVE
I AM SOMEBODY!
I would have students recite this every morning as a group led by a peer and at other times in the day when I felt it was needed. I recognize that not all children believe that they can learn or that they are somebody, as the case was with many of the children I worked with over the years. When students are encouraged and have someone tell them that they are someone and that they can achieve and you can help them believe it is true for them, not only will they amaze you, but they will amaze themselves and others that know them. I say this because this happened with my students whom I first introduced this mantra, this belief to. They began to believe in themselves, that they could learn, that they were somebody. Things that they thought they could never do, things they were told they could never do, things others thought they could never do, many of them did. They were able to because they believed.
To me, it was not like these students could not do it before they got to me. They always had the capacity to learn, talents and skills. What they needed, which is one of the most important things that a teacher can do, was for someone to help them believe in themselves. I had teachers who helped me believe in myself, helping me to go far beyond what I thought I could accomplish. It is the same way with kids today. Teachers have the opportunity to help a child believe that they can achieve and believe that he or she is somebody. A teacher can push a child further than he or she believes is possible. Things that a child would never think they could do, a teacher can help them to try.
If a child believes in himself, then the knowledge will mean something. Without a child believing in himself, I do not believe the knowledge that he may have access to means a whole lot. What will he do with a lot of knowledge but no belief in himself that he can achieve in life, that he is somebody? On the other hand, what can a child do that does not have a lot of knowledge but a belief that he can achieve in life and be somebody? I believe a whole lot. I have seen and know about those who have. Plus, a child who believes in himself will also believe that he can learn and has the ability to gain more knowledge.
So when it comes to school, having a teacher to help a child believe in himself is priceless! Once a child has someone to reinforce that he is somebody, that he can learn, that he can achieve, that he can believe in himself, there are no boundaries. What may have once seemed impossible, can become reality. I am not saying that students will become geniuses or pictures of perfection. What I am saying is that the possibilities will be endless. The most important thing is for them to believe that they can achieve to open them up to the possibilities of learning.