What is "success" for a struggling learner?
Is it reading and loving Ulysses?
Translating The Iliad from the original ancient Greek?
Solving quadratic equations in the blink of an eye?
Like children, learning success comes in all shapes and sizes.
For one of my previous (now graduated) students, success might be demonstrated by her creation of an innovative reading partnership between an animal rescue group and a local private school for kids with learning differences: http://www.tranquilitytrail.org/book-bunnies/
For another student, success might be making his way through the first Harry Potter book, long after his peers did the same.
For another, success was reading his very first Bob Book aloud, after his mother had contacted me in despair because, "My son can't read."
The true success for each of these students was not the milestone mastered, but that we worked together to change their belief in their own abilities. Instead of the "I can't" and "I'll never" mindsets, these students were transformed by a vision of their own future potential.
The common theme in all of my students' success stories is the establishment of a trusting, supportive relationship with me as their teacher: that's when the real learning begins.
D's story began with a tearful call from his mother: "My son can't read." D confirmed that for me when we met the first time: "I can't read." D and I spent the next several weeks together, becoming friends, building trust, and discovering his passions. We started at the very beginning, with letters. And soon enough D's mom called me, this time with tears of joy in her voice: "He's reading! I can hear him reading aloud to himself! Listen! Can you hear him?" D was reading a Bob Book. Since that time, D has become a sponge for learning, ready to conquer any and everything.
L and I met when she was 18, after she had endured years of school bullying and belittling because of a physical disability. Together we fashioned a curriculum based on her interests and abilities, including a lifelong dream to learn Mandarin. Once L was able to choose her own educational path and given confidence in her own potential, she blossomed into a confident and competent young woman.
S was unable to attend traditional school because of his autism and dyslexia. We didn't meet until he was 16, but once we established a strong and trusting relationship, we were able to tackle a challenging novel through which he truly discovered who he was.
The secret to unlocking J's learning potential was animals. We spent years learning all about butterflies - science, math, English - and volunteering at Butterfly Wonderland. J then began volunteering at a rabbit rescue organization, where she read to the rabbits instead of me. She eventually developed this into the Books for Bunnies partnership with the Jones Gordon School. J not only overcame her own challenges but paved a path for other kids like her to do the same.