Hello. My name is Gabby and I am a junior. After I graduate from high school, my plan is to go to college and become a special education teacher and then possibly go into the U.S Army Reserves. My overall goal is to go to law school and become a special education defense lawyer and criminal prosecutor. I want to go into special education because my family had to fight for me to receive the support I needed in order for me to learn, and I don’t want other families to have that battle with schools.
What I would like to talk about with you today is what learning in a safe and supportive environment can do for students’ lives. I would like to start by telling you what support means to me. Support means teachers and administrators showing up and being there for students. It means understanding their dreams, their goals for the academic year, understanding that they may not be OK all the time, but you also have to motivate students and remind them what they are working towards. Let me share some examples of times when I have felt this kind of support and how it made a difference for me.
One of the first times I really felt supported by a teacher was in 7th grade math. I never got an A in math until that year. The reason why I did so well in her class was because she actually read my IEP and she knew the way I needed to be taught. She would ask if I had any questions. She put her hand out to me before I had to put mine out to her. In other words, she took the first step to make a connection. When you have this kind of connection and a teacher who is willing to work with you, this makes you feel that you can do anything. You feel that with just a little bit of hard work you can overcome anything.
In 8th grade, my writing wasn’t very good; however, I had a teacher who graded me hard. She understood that I may not be the best writer and I may have learning disabilities, but she got to know me more, both personally and academically. She made me into the writer I am today. Without her I would never have written a book and had it published by Haverhill House Publishing. It is a book of poems called, The Rhymes of My Times. Having her as a teacher opened my eyes to other opportunities and to the possibility of even becoming a writer.
A third example is how one of the assistant principals worked with me during my sophomore year. She would stay after school with me twice a week just to make sure that I was ready for MCAS. She gave me extra work to do on Khan Academy, an online math website. She always helped me feel comfortable with her. She shared a little bit about herself first in order to create a safe environment for me. She would tell me, “My door is always open. I’m here to help you if you have any questions. Just let me know.” Because of her support, I passed math MCAS for the first time since 4th grade.
These three stories are living proof of what support can achieve with students. Having these
supports helped me not only pass but also flourish in school in other ways. A big factor in receiving this support were my parents advocating for me and me advocating for myself. Many students don’t have this and then the school becomes their main support system. In order to make connections with the students, in order for them to feel supported like I did, you first have to hear them. This means hearing students’ voices in the classroom, but it also means listening to their voices in the school as a whole. A focus on this needs to come from the top down. If you can feel that your voice is being heard in both of these ways, then that’s when you feel supported to learn.
This is why Safe and Supportive and Schools is so important. When you feel cared for and valued by your teachers and administrators, your motivation and attitude towards learning can be limitless. Please continue to invest in safe and supportive schools so more students can have the support I’ve had and more opportunities in the future. Thank you.