I believe in butterflies.
Not a monarch, nor something that flitters by on a warm spring day. But the awakening that happens in a student when he or she does “that one thing”.
I teach high school English and Yearbook, and many times, I don’t get to see that moment of my caterpillar students taking on the thing they struggle with because they are good at hiding the issue. Or working through a mental or emotional problem because it’s embarrassing to them. Or completing a task in another class that was completed only because it held their interest FINALLY.
I see them as caterpillars, knowing they are tucked tight into their cocoon (high school), and I am waiting for them to emerge.
And on those rare occasions, I have a student who shares that one thing, showing me their wings. The student who decided on a college, unknown to him before my class, because he went to a conference at said college for my class. The student who no other teacher could connect to in a formal classroom setting, who found his niche in sales. Another student who gained not only various skills by taking a leadership role in class, but also gained self-confidence, task managing and the understanding of how to have fun while doing so. The student who took on the role of editor of the yearbook, knowing I would be out on maternity leave for 10 weeks, and kept his staff on task, completing what was expected, as well as an award-winning book (the highest our book had received at that time.) He now uses his time and skills as editor as a basis for his business classes and project proposals.
And my most recent butterfly, a relationship that was birthed of a mid-year dismissal of another teacher that led to me finding this caterpillar. I helped finish planning the most important event of the junior year (Prom) and through this, showed her some software to use to complete tasks for the dance.
This led to her taking my class the following year, which led her to deciding on Graphic Design as a major for college. My caterpillar came back, to share what she had completed during her freshman year at college: an art portfolio that gained her acceptance into the Graphic Design program at her college. Not an easy feat. Her hard work, creativity, and perseverance completed this task.
“That one thing” started in Yearbook class, and landed my caterpillars someplace in the world today. I can’t take credit for what each of these individuals did or completed during my tenure in their life, nor can I take credit for what happened after. It was, and is, theirs to own.
All I can do is look at my bookshelf and see all my wonderful butterflies in the books created, pictures taken, and words published. And wonder when the next one will flitter into my room, ready to find a niche in the world.
Jessica Trier is in her 19th year of teaching at North Polk. She teaches Yearbook, English 10, Sports Literature and multiple Creative Writing classes.