"Did you get a scholarship?" she asked as she eyed my stack of daunting paperwork.
"Um, no... I'm applying for one. Why do you want to know about a scholarship?" I replied, confused at why on earth she was thinking about scholarships in 5th grade.
"'Cause we just got our report cards and I got good grades! So I told my mom I am going to go to college."
"Way to go!"
"yeah, but she said I have to get a scholarship 'cause college is expensive. So now I have to make sure I can get a scholarship. If you get one will you give it to me?"
I was floored by the fact that my friend was even thinking about college, and that the mention of the word scholarship sent her into a determined frenzy. This is a child who went on to tell me that on the same report card she also received an N in self-control...
I tried to take time to explain about the whole merit-based scholarship and that I just can't hand over my own scholarship (because, honestly, if I could I don't think I would anyway- I need that money!)
It's that kind of determination that will get our children farther. Not just the drive to succeed but the knowledge that they have that kind of control over their future. They don't have to be passive as though pass through school, but instead they play an important role in their own lives.
In The Elegance of a Hedgehog (and I think I may be the only person I know who loved that book) the main character, the building concierge for a French apartment building, describes school as a second birth, which taught her that she herself was a person- a soul with a name and importance. I love that scene- that coming from a poor family she suddenly understood her worth once she started school. We have the power to give that realization to our children.
I recently read Push, the novel Precious is based on, and I can't get it out of my head. It comes down to the same idea- that once a child is aware of her own importance and value she is able to take control of her own life and play a role in her future.
I think that idea sums up why I teach- to give children that power in their own lives- to help them realize that they are someone valued, someone of importance. Help them to understand that they are important enough to work hard- that they are in control of their future.