Change a Student’s Life with Only 25 Cents

Minds in Bloom is excited to have Jordyn from Grade 5 Greatness guest blogging today! Please enjoy her heart-warming story about how she changed a student’s life by believing in his ability to succeed.


Teachers have the opportunity to have enormous impact on their students. Our guest blogger shares how you can change a student's life by investing in their self-esteem in this post. Click through to read her story. 
What do report cards, Honduran money, and believing in someone have in common?


My school created a program where each teacher had a special student to serve as a mentor.  The mentor would ensure the child was doing homework, behaving in class, and not absent too often.  It is not his actual name, but for the sake of the story, I will call my mentee child Sam.  This story happened several years ago, but it remains ingrained as my favorite teaching memory, as vivid in my mind now as it was when the events unfolded.


Sam had been trying since he was in the fifth grade (the grade I teach) to make all As and Bs.  It never worked out for him.  Sam was out quite a bit and often viewed schoolwork as a waste of time when he was in attendance.  He was that student who would frustrate the teacher because he was so naturally smart but didn’t care to apply himself.  There were other things much more important to Sam than school.

When I returned from a mission trip to Honduras that year, I showed my students Honduran money called lempiras.  Sam loved my Honduran money so much that he tried desperately to buy them from me, even offering me double or triple what they were worth in American dollars. (I declined the offer, and by his response, you would have thought I turned down the best deal that Shark Tank had ever offered.  Mr. Wonderful needs to meet Sam sometime.  They could be best buds.)

As his mentor the following year, I told Sam that I’d give him those Honduran lempiras he had liked so much if he’d make all As and Bs on his report card.


Each nine weeks, a pesky C was on there.  Sometimes it was in math.  When he would raise math to a B, language would lower to a C.  He BEGGED me for the money anyway, saying one C wasn’t a big deal. But I stood firm and said that wasn’t our deal.  It is all As and Bs and nothing less.


He pouted that it would never happen.  He huffed and puffed that there was NO WAY ON EARTH he could make all As and Bs.  Why even bother?  This was such a waste of time.  If I heard one excuse from this boy, I heard ten million.


Fast forward to the day that report cards went home for the third grading period.  I was at my whiteboard, teaching a math lesson to my fifth graders when my classroom door was flung open.  In he came, barging through all my students, breathless, screaming, “I did it!!!  You owe me that Honduras money!!!  I never thought I could make it, but I did!!!”  And as quickly as he entered, he left. My dumbfounded students looked at me blankly, utterly confused about why an older student just entered to yell at their teacher.


As Sam ran toward the door, I hollered, “I’m proud of you!!!”


He hollered back, “I know!  NOW BRING ME MY MONEY!!!”


It’s amazing what a little push, a little belief, a little “knowing that someone is on your side” can do for a student.  Are you investing in your students in this way?  Not necessarily monetarily, but investing in their belief that “just because I haven’t done it before doesn’t mean I can’t now.”


You don’t have to be a part of a special program where you are assigned a student to mentor.  Just a simple sticky note that brags on how hard they worked in class that day WORKS WONDERS for student self-esteem.  Carve some time into your schedule to go to a student’s football game.  I’ve seen students move from impossible in class to my greatest ally just because I took the time to go to one sporting event.  In front of all the other teachers, call a student over and tell them how well she did on her hard math test.  Watch the surprised and completely honored smile highlight her face.  There are so many ways you can invest in the students in your school.


I never broke the news to Sam that those Honduran lempiras are only worth about twenty-five American cents.  That boy sure did an awful lot of work for 25 cents!  But somehow I think the realization that he could do it, that he was completely capable, that pushing him didn’t break him, it only made him stronger — I think that is what will stick with him for all his days.


What is your “25 cents” that you can use to invest in one of your students today?  My 25-cent investment certainly ended up paying immeasurable dividends for the both of us.

Grade 5 GreatnessJordyn is a fifth grade math teacher with 12 years in the classroom who loves writing Bible studies, teaching, and watching Downton Abbey.  She was a former finalist for Alabama’s Teacher of the Year.  You can read her blog at Grade 5 Greatness and find her teaching resources at the Grade 5 Greatness TpT store.

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