Redefining Success

By Shelby Hall (Outreach Worker in Jane and Finch)

I have been a teacher since 1997 in all different kinds of classrooms: from high achieving university bound math classes to Inuit ESL, from a group of 30 wild grade 10 students doing remedial science to working in a church basement with 10 elementary kids matched up with volunteer tutors.  Through all of this, God has been laying down a path before me to the ministry I now find myself in… Role Model Moms. I teach a small group of women the five core subjects that they will be tested on to achieve their GED, a high school equivalency.   I think that the most common theme that I have seen over and over again with all the different types of students is this:  those who BELIEVE they will succeed, will.  And even more so, a student’s individual measure of success is absolutely relevant to their individual journey in this life and absolutely not about any standardized measure.  What do I mean by this?

Studies have shown that the benefits to one on one tutoring, especially with ‘at risk’ students, is not that they actually learn the school material from their tutor. (Although that would be true of a more academic student.)  The benefit comes from that student hearing an encouraging, empowering voice telling them, “You can do this! Wow! You just did this!  Aren’t you amazing?”  That voice gets internalized in a student who has a history of other voices telling them, ”Just give up. What are you ever going to amount to?  Why do you bother?  HA! Told you so!”  The new voice is carried with them for the many, many hours of their life when they are not with the tutor.  When they return back to the torture that is usually school, and they are asked to try a few questions…. They hear the new voice and think, ‘Well, I may as well try…’

So how do I define success?  When one of my students walks through the door and says ‘Good Morning.’  To me?  That’s success.  They didn’t stay in bed with their sheets over their heads wallowing in all the dreams they never got to realize.  They didn’t listen to everyone around them telling them to give up on school, give up on themselves, or give up on ‘trying’ to do something different.

And when any one of them looks to their neighbour, sitting in the desk beside them, and offers to help them… wow… to me?  That is success through the roof!

Romans 12:12 tells us, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  The success comes from a God who loves us even if we do nothing, but is delighted when, as we fully realize this gift, we can’t help, but do SOMETHING!