I’ve been working in the Augusta Lewis Troup School now for about a month and a half. Some days have busy, non-stop projects with immediate deadlines; other days have pauses, waiting for meetings so I can hear direction in how to move forward. Throughout both extremes, however, it seems as though every project I complete gives deep relief to someone in this building. One project here at Troup was organizing by reading level a room filled to the brim with scattered books. This took hours and hours, yet when the woman who requested that service saw the final product, it reminded me why I do the work I do. When I know that I’m working toward a goal, seemingly tedious projects become incredibly worthwhile.
I know that education reform can often seem intimidating. However, I am coming to see how every small task is continually working toward a large, long-term goal. Although it may seem small, connecting with a fourth grader or typing in after-school request forms fulfills an opportunity to continually build these students’ education. I often am reminded of a short story I heard when I was young about a man coming upon a beach covered in starfish. He notices a small girl picking up starfish one at a time, throwing them back in the ocean so they can live. He asks her why she does it, since the beach is covered and there is no way that she’ll be able to make a difference. In response, she pauses, reaches down, picks up a starfish, throws it into the ocean, and says, “It made a difference to that one.” I often remind myself that every small task I do is meaningful. Each interaction I have with a student, each book I classify to a shelf, each phone call with an outside organization, each parent letter I write is part of this long-term process. If I can be an interested, interesting adult figure for these youth, I recognize that to be a success. If I enable other teachers to provide great programs for these youth, I recognize that to be a success. If I use all of the resources I can to provide the most opportunities I can, I recognize that to be a success. All of us throughout the Boost! schools in New Haven are working to give youth the best education available. These small steps are what work toward city-wide education reform.
I feel inspired when I recognize that each tiny step is meaningful, and it works toward a lofty yet achievable long-term goal. Where do you find your motivation? How can we all steadily work to enable the best opportunities?
Deede Dixon is working for the Boost! initiative as an Episcopal Service Corps member at the Troup School to organize afterschool programs, address truancy, provide tutoring, and assist with much outside of the classroom.