From Mrs. Samenga, a teacher at Tubman Elementary – written 2009
Tell a little about a time when a student’s accomplishments completely exceeded your expectations. Or, tell a little about a time when you were inspired by a student.
In the spring of this year, Mr. Hughes, the principal, approached me about an essay contest for 4th – 6th graders, “Global Harmony through Personal Excellence.” They had to write about a character trait that they value in themselves and others, and a time in their lives when they either exhibited that quality, or when they hadn’t and wished that they had.
In the end, four of my kids submitted essays. One was by a student who had not been in the country for very long, but he said he wanted to do it and he gave it his all.
He wrote about a friend he had lied to about money he had found. In the morning, his friend had told him he had lost 20 dollars. My student later saw $20 on the field, and on the way home, his friend was still upset. Instead of telling his friend that he’d found the $20 he suspected belonged to his friend, he told his friend, “That’s too bad.”
His friend went on to say that his main disappointment was that he had been going to use that money to buy ice cream for the both of them later in the day. After school, my student went to the video game store and was standing in line, ready to buy the games, and in the store he just started to feel horrible inside. He couldn’t get past the fact that he was going to spend money that wasn’t his solely on himself, and all his friend had wanted to do with the money was to buy something for them to spend time doing something together.
So in his essay, he wrote that he looked the cashier in the eye and said he had changed his mind. He went and bought ice cream for his friend, and told his friend the truth. His friend forgave him and from that day forward they have been completely honest with each other. He decided that the feeling you get for lying to someone just isn’t worth it.
It wasn’t just his story that moved me. He had grammatical errors and really had to work on the writing, but it was so passionate. I worked with him on the writing, but it was his language and story. They were competing with kids from all over, kids on the other side of the park, so I didn’t know what he was up against. He turned it in, and a few weeks went by and I kind of forgot about it. One day a sign was outside my door congratulating him for winning 1st place!
He got to go to Sumner and read his essay, with cameras there and everything. He was nervous about his accent and reading his essay. English was not his strongest, and it inspired me that he saw it as, regardless of the fact that this is difficult, I still want to do it.
He had a story to tell. He got letters from Mrs. Obama, Oprah Winfrey, the Wizards…the recognition he got through this contest was amazing. I love seeing kids learn that the work, that taking on things that are hard for you, really pays off.