2008 Summer Blogger–Biggest Challenge

This will be the first in a series of blog posts by our 2008 teacher bloggers. I recently asked them to reflect on their experience last summer; Renee was asked what her biggest challenge was last summer…

Breakthrough Summer 2009 Teachers!

Hi!  My name is Renee White and I taught a group of fantastic kids at Breakthrough Norfolk last summer.  I just finished up my junior year “abroad” at the University of Pennsylvania located in Philadelphia, PA, and will be headed to Summerbridge Hong Kong in only three short weeks. Last summer was full of many challenges, all of which provided opportunities for me to become a better teacher and I can’t wait to see what this summer brings.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for me was learning how to strike a balance between being a teacher and being a friend.  In the beginning, I think I was so concerned with ensuring that the kids liked me that I wasn’t challenging them enough.  As the program progressed, I learned more about their capabilities, and five weeks into the summer it finally hit me.  Lois Loufborrow, the founder of Breakthrough, came to talk with us.  She asked us to think about our favorite teacher growing up.  Then she had us say why we liked that teacher so much.  Every person in my group described how the teacher challenged them to do more than they themselves ever thought they could do.  They didn’t necessarily like the teacher at first, but eventually they grew to.

At Celebration last summer, one of our graduating ninth graders described this same exact feeling in his speech.  One of the Breakthrough teachers made him do extra algebra problems at lunch, which he didn’t like at the time, but in his Celebration speech, he spoke with gratitude about that teacher and was so thankful.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned about how to walk that fine line of being a teacher and a friend is that the more you push students, the more respect you earn from them.  A junior in a New York City public high school once told me that she’ll do everything her teachers ask, but not more.  Students are capable of more than we think, and it is our job to see their potential that they might be blind to.  Even though we may not earn immediate love, we’ll be rewarded greatly in the end.

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