Small Actions Lead to Meaningful Change

During January, the Corporation for National & Community Service celebrates National Mentoring Month! To honor this month, JV AmeriCorps member Katherine Pier (’17-18 Ashland, MT), who serves as the Substitute Teacher for the St. Labre Indian School, shares a story of two students who initiated a small action in order to positively transform the course of their school year. 

The following story may seem insignificant, but to the two students involved, I can see that it has made a world of difference. Two of the students I have been tutoring during the after-school study hall session have become very near and dear to my heart. They are truly wonderful kids, with curious minds and the largest of hearts, but they seem to have trouble keeping their grades up.

When I looked at their records, I saw that most of their bad grades were due to work that was simply never turned in. When I asked them how they stay organized and keep track of all their assignments, they looked at me blankly and shrugged. I could tell they had no idea what I was talking about.

In my high school days I would have been lost without a reliable notebook to keep a record of my chores, assignments, upcoming tests, etc. So, I decided to create my own agenda book for them. I stapled together a few pieces of paper and wrote a slot for the date along with four columns: class, work, due date, and plan. On the far left, I wrote one column that had a list of all their classes. I told these gentlemen that all they had to do was write down their assignments (homework, quizzes, tests, etc.) as soon as the teacher mentioned them in class and the date they were due. I handed these packets to these students holding my breath, hoping they would not forget to fill them in or, worse, lose them.

The next day at after school study hall, I came upon these two students again; to my delight, they both saw me, smiled, and pulled out their makeshift agenda books–FILLED OUT! My heart swelled with pride and appreciation for the step these two students took. It was a small step, but it made a huge impact. I nearly shouted, “This is so awesome! You filled them out!” One of the students was slightly surprised by my reaction, and he said, “Well, you asked me to do it. So I did it.” Then he smiled and seemed to be pleased that I was so elated by the fact that they had utilized this resource. I could see in his eyes that he was truly proud of himself for following my directions and completing a task, no matter how simple it was.

Since then, the three of us have used these booklets to go through their assignments and to come up with a plan of how to complete each task. I let the students decide which subject they would like to start with, when and where they would like to study, and for how long. It is totally up to them. They are fully autonomous in creating a schedule for themselves, and I have found that this makes them more likely to follow it.

I am incredibly proud of how this small step has seemed to change the course of their school year, and how these two students have shown self-discipline and have exercised taking initiative to change their future. For in the end, the trajectory of their lives is truly up to them. I am proud to be witnessing that trajectory take its shape.

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