I sat at the head of two, rectangle shaped tables, pushed together end-to-end, and listened to my class talk. There had to be 7 different conversations going on at once, and yet, I heard nothing. No, I hadn’t gone deaf- my mind, amidst an epiphany, had muted the noise in the room to allow me to process, and it was in that moment that I finally understood. I understood what my teachers, coaches, and mom had been saying about me all those years growing up. See, I was the kid; the student and athlete that my schoolteachers, dance teachers, lacrosse coach, and mom said didn’t work up to her potential. I didn’t know what in the world that meant, and for that reason, I hated hearing it. I never understood how I was failing to work up to something I’d never shown them I could do. So I just added it to the list of weird things adults said, but never bothered helping kids understand.
Years later, as I sat looking at my students, I saw in them what my teachers had seen in me. I could see everything they were capable of becoming, all their latent abilities, sparks that were waiting to be flamed into fire, all they could achieve and accomplish. My teachers saw in me a student who had the ability to excel, even if she didn’t have the desire. They saw what I was capable of achieving if I were willing to work harder; I wasn’t. They saw what could be. When I sat with my class that day, I saw the same thing in them, potential. As the volume of the room slowly turned up, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and knew that helping them recognize their potential and put great work into the world would be my work.