The Write Stuff
I met Nicolas on a college campus where he was attending law school. He had just finished coaching at a youth soccer camp when he stopped to talk with me about a teacher who made an undeniable impact on his life.
My family moved to Florida from Costa Rica when I was in middle school. It was a difficult adjustment; I definitely had culture shock for the first year. My English was limited when I arrived, but by the time I got to high school, I was a fluent English speaker. I was not a great writer though.
I met Mrs. Alfonso at the beginning of my freshman year. She was a resource teacher for students who spoke English as a second language. When we met for the first time, it was clear she had already reviewed my records. She explained that I was doing well in math, but she would be supporting me in English class. I soon learned that her way of supporting closely resembled that of my soccer coach, intense and unrelenting. I still remember what she said to me, “You are smart, Nicolas, but people will not see how smart you are if you can’t write proficiently. It will limit your opportunities.” She insisted that I give her my papers before I turned them in. She had this purple pen, and my papers would end up a sea of purple. She didn’t just mark them, she went over every correction with me. That’s right – Every. Single. Correction.
When I graduated from high school, I was a better writer than most of my native English speaking friends. I did well in my college English classes and eventually made it into law school. Writing and speaking are indispensable parts of a lawyer’s work. I know that Mrs. Alfonso was right, my credibility and my confidence would have been hindered by my limitations. I always knew that she loved me, in a tenacious purple pen yielding kind of way.
Nicolas’ story is evidence that kindness does not always show up as soft, gentle sweetness. Sometimes the kindest thing a teacher can do is hold high expectations and apply a bit of pressure. Mrs. Alfonso had a knack for tough love, the kind that gives kids like Nicolas the chance to reach their potential. How did a teacher help you reach your potential? Share in the comments below.
Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-
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