In 2009, I was lucky enough to be one of a handful of people trained in a program that works one on one with teens that have no functional literacy. Some as old as 18 were arriving in Canada with no English and no real experience of school. I met one on one with each student for half an hour of intervention each day. The radical changes those students made were inspiring. Watching those teens dare to think big and have the heart to take small steps each day towards dreams that were beyond lofty, taught me several essential elements of success that I will never forget:
- Clearly defined ambitious goals
- Positive mindset
- Celebration of minor progress
- Honest self-assessment and external support
- Willingness to work on small changes with daily action
This was also when I fully realized what a privilege it is to work with people who are dedicated and committed to holding and realizing an expanded version of themselves.
My turning point
Then in 2010, I had a day that forever changed my life. I was asked to speak at the BCSTA Conference in front of several hundred school trustees on the topic of “What makes a student successful?” They also asked if I would bring one of my students along. What a request! Most adults who speak English as their first language would balk at the task, never mind a teenager who is still learning the language. I brought one of my beginner ESL students along. The speech she gave on her new life and new success in Canada since leaving Iraq was so inspiring, so honest and so powerfully delivered that it brought much of the room to tears. It also showed me exactly how powerful public speaking can be.
Taking the leap
Inspired by my truly amazing student, I decided that day that I needed to fully embrace my dream and take the leap to leave teaching. That decision felt terrifying. The transition has not been easy and in very many ways it is just beginning. However, when I think about the level of aliveness it has brought me and when I think about the community of like-minded inspiring people I am able to work with I know it is more than worth it!