My student success classes have had a theme for the past few years: What is your dream—and what are you doing to get to your dream? During our final class meeting of the term, students have an opportunity to share the progress they have made. It always proves to be an emotional session—and one of the most fulfilling of the semester. For me, there are generally two takeaways:
- It is about them in a very good way. For some of my students—especially my “older” (i.e., non-traditional college aged) female students—this is the first time they have really thought seriously about their dream. Most of their lives, they have focused on other people (husbands, children, parents, friends). Now they concentrate on what they want from life for themselves. No, this is NOT an exercise in selfishness. Rather it proves to be an affirmation that they have talents, aspirations, and life. They have been given “permission” to think of themselves. Believe me when I say this is a very emotional—almost cathartic—moment. I cannot tell you how many times students have tearfully said something to the effect of “I almost gave up on college. I didn’t think I deserved this.” They are so proud of what they have accomplished in the semester.
- We never know the impact we have. My students find their inspiration from many sources. Some dig within; some have a deep spiritual connection. Others draw on those around them. It is obvious they are carefully listening and observing—turning to positive role models as well as running from the negative ones. Here are four of the most powerful student reflections I have heard over the semesters.
- One student said, “I had nothing most of my life and still I listen to a mother full of excuses…I chose school over being strung out or selling dope…I chose school because I want to live!”
- A young student said, “I’ve never had a role model and I’ve never had anyone telling me that I could be anything in life. But what I did have were people that were nothing and were simply a statistic.”
- “My mother’s past always becomes the present because she keeps doing the same things.” Wow, that is insightful.
- A mother told the class how her family was actually jealous of her investing time in school. When she considered giving up, she said she thought about my encouragements and exhortations in class. And she focused on one word in the title of our textbook: “CHOICES.” Those two things kept her going at the most difficult time of her semester. She completed a VERY successful term.
Even the smallest thing we say or do can make a significant difference in the lives of those around us. We never know the impact we have.