The Little Engine That Could

Potential.  By definition means “capable of being or becoming.”  Do you know anybody who has potential but for some reason or another doesn’t live up to it?  I see this every day with some of the kids in my fourth grade class.  To reach potential you have to put forth effort.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try as a teacher, a parent, or a friend, sometimes you can’t get that one person to understand that they have potential.  All they need is that one thing, or even that one person in their life to help show them the way.

Today was a good example of this.  I have a boy in my class who struggles day in and day out. He is working below grade level in just about every subject, but especially in math. He is constantly frustrated, and tends to give up easily. Obviously not knowing the material, he rarely does his homework, and even when he does, he basically fills in answers to make it look like he did it.  He doesn’t try and work on the things he is struggling in, mainly because he thinks it is too hard.  The bottom line is he doesn’t believe in himself.

Our instructional coach came in to shadow him for the full day to see what we could do about this.  At first, he was hesitant to accept her help.  He felt embarrassed that this teacher was constantly checking in on him, and didn’t want his “boys” to see this.  He even came up to me at one point and asked, “is this lady here because I am so low in math?”  Over time, even though he acted like he didn’t like it, you could see he was starting to really enjoy it.  At one point, he was asked to do his weekly job which was to take the books down to the library.  He casually walked over to her and asked her if she wanted to go with him.  As she was ready to be done for the day while they were in music, he again asked her if she would join him for PE also.

Over the course of this day, he has never worked so hard.  He has never tried so hard in every subject. He never believed he “could.” I saw something in him that I really haven’t seen in him all year. He finally believed in himself.  After she left, and we were sitting in study hall, he came to me and showed me how he figured out his fractions.  All he needed was someone to be by him to believe in him. I try and do this on a daily basis, but unfortunately I can’t sit with him the whole day.  I now can build off of this and make him realize that he can do anything he wants.  He can live up to that potential, he just has to have the same confidence in himself everyday as he did throughout the day today.  He just has to realize that a little effort can take him a long way.  A little extra confidence in himself can get him over that big hill.



  1. Dana Murphy · March 2, 2016

    I don’t know whether I love this story more or the way you wrote it! I had such a great time in your room today, and I just loved watching you interact with your kids. More on that later, but suffice it to say, they love you.

    And this writing?!? Who wrote this?? Just kidding, but not really because it’s amazing. Oh my goodness, I cannot wait to hear the rest of your stories this month!!


  2. ams4blog · March 2, 2016

    Mark, this made me smile because sometimes the small victories of the day can lead to big changes! Here’s hoping your “Little Engine That Could” keeps tugging along and believing in himself!


  3. beckymusician · March 3, 2016

    This is about the most important thing that teachers do for kids – believe in them until they can believe in themselves. I hope your little guy will continue on the path to success.


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