Sometimes Students Become Our Role Models: Lessons from Lily

Sometimes Students Become Our Role Models: Lessons from Lily

I handed out the benchmark test results in April. Lily looked at hers, the 48% glaring back at her. This wasn’t the grade she was hoping for and honestly, it wasn’t the grade she deserved.

If I ask Lily to write a sentence, she writes a paragraph. If I ask her to do homework on five vocabulary words, she works on ten. Her motivation is posted on the data wall in my classroom:

I will go to Harvard and be a lawyer.

I will work harder and harder and harder.

I will be a lawyer.


If anyone deserved success, it was Lily. I wanted to give her the highest grade in the class. I wanted to celebrate with her. Instead, I was handing her a failing grade, and I couldn’t meet her eyes as I put the test in front of her.

Lily nodded as she saw her grade, and then looked up at me with a bright smile.

“I just need to work harder!”

As end-of-grade test results were announced earlier this week, I found myself looking at disappointing results. My scores are considered “good” for my school, but they are still much, much lower than I had hoped. I’d worked so hard. I’d tried so hard. I’d deserved so much more. My students had deserved so much more. After the news, I came home and found myself stress-eating a giant bowl of popcorn and staring aimlessly at walls. I’d wanted good scores to prove that I had taught my students. I’d wanted good scores to wear as a medal of success.

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