Next On The List
I can’t believe I’m finally at my first student-teaching assignment. Working at a private inner city school made me nervous, but I was told to be confident. I decided that would be the word for today’s English assignment.
“Good morning, class, I’m Miss Sofia Sapphire, your student teacher. Welcome back from Christmas break.”
As I spoke, I looked around at the eighth graders, wondering if they were even paying attention to me. Some of the girls were looking at their nails, and other students were staring into space.
“I’ll be teaching English for the remainder of the year. I’ve reviewed all your grades, but that doesn’t tell me anything about you. Daily, I will give you a word and I want you to use it in a sentence.” Looking at the class list, I said, “Allison Andrews, you’ll be first. Use the word ‘confident’ in a sentence.”
The class snickered and whispered at Allison. I chose to ignore them. “Allison?”
Allison looked very uncomfortable. “C-c-c-confident is w-w-what I’m n-n-not.”
As she spoke, I realized the reason the class laughed was that Allison had a severe stuttering problem. Again, I chose to ignore her predicament.
“Although that doesn’t tell me what the definition is, it’s an interesting way to use the word. Okay, Brian Crispin, you’re next.”
Brian stood up and announced loudly, “I is confident that I can speak gooder than her,” he said pointing at Allison and laughing.
I snapped at him, “and I’m confident that talk like that will send you straight to the principal’s office. Apologize right now.”
Sheepishly, but lacking sincerity, Brian said, “I’m sorry.”
The wide-eyed class looked at me. I wondered if a teacher had ever spoken to them in this manner.
“Next on the list is George Edwards.”
George looked right at me. “I is confident I can sink a perfect basketball.”
Other answers included:
I feel confident that I can complete my homework on time.
I is confident that I look great.
I’m so confident in myself.
I’m confident I can get that girl to go out with me.
After class, I asked Allison to come to my desk. “Allison, is there anything I can do to help you?” Even as I asked the question, I felt incompetent.
“N-n-no, I c-c-can’t talk. I-I-I’m too s-s-stupid.” Allison spoke very quickly. In addition to stuttering, she slurred her words together.
“You are not stupid! I see something in you that tells me you are a person of deep thought. Do you read a lot?”
“Oh, y-y-yes. I l-l-love to r-r-read.”
“What do you like to read?”
“Would you like to read a book full of historical facts and figures? It also has mysteries and love stories.”
Allison’s eyes lit up as she nodded. “W-w-what is this b-b-book?”
I reached in my desk and pulled out a Bible. “Have you ever seen this?”
“I’ve h-h-heard about it, but I-I-I’ve n-n-never seen it.”
“This is an extra copy. Take it home and begin reading it. If you have any questions, just ask me, okay?”
Allison nodded and left, carrying the Bible as if I’d given her a million dollars.
The next several days passed swiftly, and each day I asked the class to use a different word in a sentence.
I began to encourage Allison to speak slowly, and that simple act made her speech improve. The students began to spend time with her, asking questions and showing an interest.
During the final month of school, I realized that I enjoyed being here. Brian was no longer the class smart-aleck. His grammar and attitude changed for the better; his classmates seemed to enjoy being around him.
Most of all, I watched as Allison’s character improved. As she read more of the Bible, her confidence seemed to soar.
The last week of school, I told the class, “Today’s word is confident. Who would like to be first?”
Brian spoke up, “I am confident that I have learned a lot this year.”
George said, “I am confident that I will obtain a college scholarship with my high grades and improved basketball playing.”
Several more responses made me smile, especially when Gretchen said, “I am confident that you will be a fine teacher.”
But it was Allison’s flawless speech that really touched my heart, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.”
Reference: Psalm 27:3
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