Sunday, January 7, 2007

Future Champions

We All Need Inspirational Stories, Even Humor Columnists

I thought I would tell a story that is near and dear to my heart.

A while back, my older brother Patrick, wise in years of experience, gave me a small digital voice recorder for my personal note taking. While sitting around the table, reading the instructions and figuring out which buttons to push, he decided to give me an example of how the new technology works. So Patrick searched for something that he could read into the mic. It was at this time that he was reading a motivational book titled, What to Say When You Talk to Your Self, by Shad Helmstetter, PH.D. Skimming through the pages, he settled on a section of the book that begins with, "I can do anything I believe I can do!" and ends with, "I am an exceptional human being." Talk about killing two birds with one stone, oops, no killing birds here. But it was great to be able to see and hear how the voice recorder functioned as well as hearing the very inspirational passage read out loud. It sent chills through me.

It was at this time I came up with an inspirational plan for my very special fourth grade students. By the way, all my students are special students, so this plan was for all of them. You see, I teach 4th grade in the Pittsburgh Public School District at Weil ALA (Accelerated Learning Academy) in the Hill District, the heart of the Pittsburgh urban community. This is one of the inner city schools that many of the children come out of single parent households, or poor and broken homes, with children feeling unloved, and are generally neglected in their personal lives. The new Accelerated Learning Academies were designed to raise the student achievement of all children at every level, and this program specially targets the socio-economic disadvantaged group.

Now, at this point it is important to understand that all of the teachers in this school are facing very difficult situations on a daily basis. Many of the students at the school ignore all types of authority. Teachers are constantly battling with students. Many of the students during the school classes, stand, walk, fight, jump on desks, throw pencils, erasers, desk chairs, and even occasionally throw the desks themselves - all the while the teachers are trying to teach the subject matter. In fact, to give an idea of how tough it is to be a teacher there, when I called in sick for three days, a month ago, three different substitute teachers were called in for each of the three days. In each case, they all left the school before the day was over and said that they would never return to teach at that school again, for any reason.

Why do I tell you this? This is to set the stage for the next part of the story that is truly remarkable to say the least. While thinking, what can I do to reach these students and make an impact into their lives, my mind wandered back to that recording my brother had done on the digital voice recorder he had given me. You see, I also started reading the book from Shad Helmstetter. I thought, my students might be able to get something useful out of that passage of the book, and what better way to share it with my students than with the new technology of digital recorder that still had my brother's reading of the book's passage on it.

The students are required to read a number of books throughout the year. I check  to see what books they are reading and we try to discuss the various books. So, I decided to share with them the book I was reading. I introduced the book and author, and then said that my brother recorded a passage that I wanted to share with them, if they would just please listen to it.

Once I turned it on, I was literally shocked at their reaction. Here is what was said in the book.
I can do anything I believe I can do! I've got it and every day I get more of it. I have talent, skills, and ability.

I set goals and I reach them. I know what I want out of life, I go after it, and I get it.

People like me, and I feel good about myself. I have a sense of pride in who I am and I believe in myself.

Nothing seems to stop me. I have a lot of determination. I turn problems into advantages. I find possibilities in things that other people never give a chance.

I have a lot of energy - I am very alive! I enjoy life and I can tell it and so can others. I keep my self up, looking ahead, and liking it.

I know that I can accomplish anything I choose, and I refuse to let anything negative hold me back or stand in my way.

I am not afraid of anything or anyone. I have strength, power, conviction, and confidence! I like challenges and I meet them head on, face to face - today especially

I am on top of the world and I'm going for it. I have a clear picture in my mind of what I want. I can see it in front of me. I know what I want and I know how to get it. I know that it's all up to me and I know I can do it.

Roadblocks don't bother me. They just mean that I am alive and running, and I'm not going to stand still for anything.

I trust myself I've got what it takes - plenty of it - and I know how to use it. Today, more than ever. Today I am unstoppable! I've got my self together and I'm getting more together every day. And today - look out world, here I come!

Limitations? I don't even recognize them as limitations. There is no challenge I can't conquer; there is no wall I can't climb over. There is no problem I can't defeat or turn around and make it work for me.

I stand tall! I am honest and sincere. I like to deal with people and they like me. I think well; I think clearly. I am organized; I am in control of myself and everything about me.

I call my shots and no one has to call them for me. I never blame anyone else for the circumstances of my life. I accept my failings and move past them as easily as I accept the rewards for my victories.

I never demand perfection of my self, but I expect the very best of what I have to give - and that's what I get!

I never give my self excuses. I get things done on time and in the right way. Today I have the inner strength to do more than ever.

I am an exceptional human being. My goals and my incredible belief in myself turn my goals into reality. I have the power to live my dreams. I believe in them like I believe in myself. And that belief is so strong that there is nothing that diminishes my undefeatable spirit.

Shad Helmstetter - What to Say When You Talk to Your Self
Each and every one of my students sat stone still, completely silent and totally engrossed in listening to the words that were recorded. When it had ended, the reaction was something out of a Rocky movie, there was silence for a few seconds, followed by a loud applause, cheering, with fists pumping to the ceiling. They were all truly touched by that passage.

I finally got them settled down again and passed out an abstract coloring page that I wanted them to color (just to keep their hands occupied) while thinking about what they had just heard. I also asked them to imagine, just imagine, what if each one of us could do anything we wanted to do, anything with no boundaries. More silence with a lot of thinking going on. That was the first and only time where my students sat for 20 to 25 minutes, completely still, and completely quiet. Since then I have received several letters from my students - unsolicited, with one a few weeks ago, that refers to the recording and how much of an impression it made on them, and how much it means to them to have a teacher teaching them things that they really need to know.

If you would like to get in touch with Sandra Seeley, send her an email today.


Anonymous said...


I was moved and humbled by your willingness to extend yourself so personally with your children. Perhaps if they have the good fortune to hear those words over and over again, they might well live many of the passages into reality.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful gift you gave those students! That is something that kids need from teachers!

Anonymous said...

Your students are lucky to have a teacher like you. You recognize the deeper issues and if there is a problem, you do more than place a band aid on it and shuffle your students on to the next grade level; you really try to get to the heart of the issue and you're not afraid to be honest about a situation and call it like you see it. Kids need to learn more than just math and writing, they need to learn to be motivated and have self esteem and treat others with respect, and that is what you are trying to do. Some people may not see the importance of digging deep; some people may want to deny there are any problems at all, and blame the person who is trying to fix them. But I see what you're doing, and so does God and any students, parents, and coworkers who aren't too scared to admit that there is a problem with the school system and teachers like you are the solution.

Covnitkepr1 said...

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