News Columns & Blogs

Sheryl Green: Wheels on the bus go round and round

I have a student who doesn't get it yet. He is fighting against it. He hasn't grasped the concept, and he is often a little difficult to manage. And last week we had a parent-teacher conference, and I learned that Dad doesn't understand it either.

One day, some day, they will. I will be, of course, a memory of the past, just a name on a long list of teachers from grade school, but at one pivotal moment in the young man's development, he will recall his English teacher and appreciate how she pushed him to expect better of himself.

It's almost a daily struggle for us educators, and I'm not sure there is a sure-fire way to make things easier for us when it comes to motivating kids to respect the lost art of hard work. High expectations meet high contention. Rigor meets resistance. Amidst the battle of wits, however, one constant remains -- the steadfast heart of the educator.

There is the occasional complacent teacher who cares little for a child's future, the nonchalant instructor who puts forth little effort to increase the efforts of students. The product of this unfortunate equation is the repetition of mediocrity, and, thankfully, these teachers are few in number and will leave the profession before retirement.

But it's the passionate teacher who cares deeply for a child's future. The driven instructors strive diligently and relentlessly to push a child towards success because they recognize the importance. They fight against the grumbles of disdain, shield themselves from the rebuke of the non-compliant, and ignore the woes of the misguided. The fruits of this labor of love are not realized in 180 days, maybe not even in 12 years of schooling. Unfortunately, the steadfast warriors with dented shields may never know if the revelation occurs.

And still, they remain, hopefully persistent.

I think all of us can survey our list of grade school teachers and recall that one teacher who challenged us to do the seemingly unthinkable, who wouldn't compromise expectations so he or she could present boldly to us our own potential. That realization seems reciprocal within the teaching profession. I doubt very seriously this young man will ever stand before a classroom, but most of us who do can thank a previous teacher for being the inspiration for our taking up the mantle. Imagine if the cycle of motivation broke down and fantastic teachers were no longer created in the third grade desks of our local elementary school.

Thank goodness, though, the wheels are still turning, and young, vibrant teachers are inspired by the seasoned veterans of influence. Small kids are still being altered by the power of positivity from their teachers, growing up to continue the cycle.

Which reminds me of a little girl named Ebony.

She lived in a challenging neighborhood full of drugs, crime, and prostitution.

Everything in her life pointed her towards a future of hopelessness, except the yellow school bus that carried her to Mrs. Middlebrooks's third grade classroom.

There she found a teacher who cared enough to push her students to rise up and meet their potential, presented possibility to them through having high expectations, and helped Ebony realize she didn't have to be a product of her environment. And Ebony got it.

She grasped the concept that the intention of Mrs. Middlebrooks was always to inspire greatness, to instill in Ebony a diligence that would change a future. And it did.

Now Mrs. Ebony Robinson greets her third graders at North Columbus Elementary every morning with a heartfelt smile and a caring heart.

They step off the yellow school bus and walk into a room full of promise. The cycle continues in that little classroom, and lives are changed.

I hope my student finally gets it one day. But even if he doesn't, I'll keep marching alongside Mrs. Robinson and my fellow warriors and continue to dodge the arrows of reluctance because, well, it's just that important.

Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at