Precious Medals


Javi and I met while working on a creative project. He has a gift for storytelling; so I was eager to hear about a teacher who made an impact on his life. He told me about Mr. Cronin, the teacher who demanded excellence and demonstrated the rewards of effort.

I was worried that I might be placed in Mr. Cronin’s third grade class. He was a stoic, bald, former military officer, and everything about him intimidated me. I was relieved to be placed with a very soft spoken, sweet third grade teacher. I felt unlucky when Mr. Cronin moved to fifth grade the same year I did, but ending up in his class turned out to be very lucky for me. Mr. Cronin had high expectations and challenged me to work harder and achieve more. I received services as a bilingual student, and I lacked confidence in reading. Mr. Cronin did not accept any excuses, and he believed in me.

His military experience was evident in his classroom. He created three medals for progressing through three reading levels. I had never earned a medal before, and I wanted one so badly. I was determined to earn the first one, and I read for hours until I reached the first level. As I progressed, I gained confidence. By the end of the year, I earned the other two. I still have all three of those medals. They remind me that hard work pays off, even in academic pursuits.

Javi’s story made me think about the ways we recognize academic effort. Students are accustomed to earning trophies or medals in athletics, but they are less likely to earn them for academics. Teachers like Mr. Cronin send a powerful message by motivating students to hustle in pursuit of a learning goal. How did a teacher recognize your intellectual effort? Please share in the comments below.

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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