Despite the kids going wild with the impending summer and grading and report-writing taking up a vast chunk of my life outside of school, I love this time of the year. I feel very gratified and humbled by the journey that my students have taken with me this year. Mathematics, for some reason, is such a defining subject for many students in terms of its impact on the way that they perceive themselves and their general capabilities. More than anything, I wish each year to change some kids' self-perception for the better by changing their relationship with math.
One student of mine was afraid to come to school in the beginning of the year. She missed dozens of days in the beginning of the year, because she was terrified of math based on her experience from other schools. Once the counselors and support people got her to come to school, I coaxed her into just trying the things that we were doing in class. Over time, it has been amazing to see her develop into a person who enjoys doing math. I know this to be true, because she sometimes would pull me aside after we go over a problem as a class, and then show me an alternative way to do the problem to ask if that's valid as well. She also does not like to ask for help easily, and prefers poring over/analyzing the problems on her own first. Her confidence has also developed tremendously. She is now rarely absent, and in general, she is just a different person than she was at the beginning of the year, always seeming eager and curious in class.
I know because of kids like her that I had chosen the right career for myself. For me, there's no success that is greater than the payoff I get from seeing kids like this blossom over the course of a full year. In the end, the patience that teaching requires is not on a day-to-day basis, but in being patient enough to wait a full year to observe the visible changes in the students. It has taken a village to reach this kid, and I hope that in the future, when she is in a different math class, she'll remember all the things she has been able to do this year and to still have faith in who she is and what she can do.