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Looking Back and Ahead: A Year of Patience
by Will Hobart

Spring is in full bloom in Philadelphia. I rolled my windows down on my way to school today letting the cool morning air fill my car and bite me in the face. I passed the elementary school two blocks from Sulzberger and waved politely at the crossing guard. I realized there were not many mornings this school year left to make this trip.

After I signed-in in the office, I passed the bulletin board outside the office, a decorated congratulation to the eighth grade class of 2007 at Sulzberger. I smiled as I remembered what a year it has been for them and what a year it has been for me. Im taking this final journal entry to reflect upon how my time with each of them has taught me to be patient and helped us all mature in ways I never thought possible.

After building initial trust with Xavier in the fall, my patience developed quickly as I realized his way of showing he liked me was by cursing me out daily. I developed patience with Markeeta after the interventions from her behavior plan to get her to come to school on time did not work and she still came late at least three days a week. I still remind Raymond of the second day of school when he led all of the learning support students in a protest walk out of my classroom as I tried to introduce myself and give them information for their parents. We can chuckle about this now because with time, persistence, and patience we were able to construct a common ground between us, a common understanding.

I was taught to be patient with Julias mother, a teacher herself, when she pushed for her daughter to receive special education services, an added level of restriction to her daughters learning environment I did not believe she needed.

I brought patience to the conversation with Steves mother when we discussed her concerns about the necessity of his special education placement. She was right; there was no reason to believe being shy is a valid indicator of a learning disability. It seems we both have serious questions to ask the school psychologist who evaluated him.

As I prepare to part with the 13 eighth graders I have gotten to know so well, I can only hope they take with them the sense of urgency, the sense of entitlement to an outstanding public school education every child in America deserves."
Chasing David and Chandler through the halls trying to persuade them that class time was worth attending has stretched my patience thin at times; however, watching students like Jay and Robert sit quietly each day ready to begin the lesson has helped me to rebuild it thicker than ever.

I learned patience when dealing with Leona, who would never shut her mouth in class and with Cheryl who never dared to open hers. I learned patience from Corey as I watched him be patient with himself and his loss of memory due to a growing tumor. I will never forget his thinking posture: Hands on his forehead, eyes squinting, he tried to remember basic multiplication facts. It is in these moments with students that I truly understand the power of will and determination no matter the context, no matter the challenges.

As I prepare to part with the 13 eighth graders I have gotten to know so well, I can only hope they take with them the sense of urgency, the sense of entitlement to an outstanding public school education every child in America deserves. I hope they take with them the commitment I have, as do teachers across the United States, to providing educational opportunities despite the setbacks that exist; roadblocks that distract from the goal of creating a literate America where every child has an equal right and equal chance to make it.

As I walk out the door of my classroom each day I look at my letter of intent I included in my application for the Teach For America program. No matter what happened that day I skim the letter and remind myself I am here for a reason. I am here for a purpose and the time I have spent with the eighth graders has given them something positive I hope they can take with them to high school and beyond.

I end with something I said to Xavier in a conference with his mother. You are the future generation of our country. You have to be patient with people and with yourself. You can be the change America needs, you have to be." Just as Xavier tested my trust last fall, now is the beginning of Xaviers big test. A chance to prove to himself and to the world that regardless of where you come from, you have the right to have hope, belief, and trust that you can reach your dreams.

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Article by Will Hobart
Education World®
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Posted 05/16/2007