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Circumstance Does Not Make the Man; It Reveals Him to Himself
Posted On:
Monday, February 27, 2017
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by Alan Hedges, WPCSD Great Teachers and Leaders Cadre

James Allen said "Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.

Most educators recognize there is often more to a student’s life than books and homework, studying and standards. Sometimes students struggle with concerns that leave school less than a priority or, at a minimum, compete for their attention.

Steven was one of these students. Always wearing a smile and quick to say hello, Steven was easy to like, easy to talk to. However, as the school year progressed, it became apparent there was a lot going on in this young man’s life. He was a cancer survivor. An immediate family member recently suffered a vicious attack in their home and nearly died. His father was in prison and had been for much of Steven’s life. Steven affiliated with a gang in his previous school, and that influence pulled on him constantly. From the 6th grade on he didn’t spend more than six months in any one place. He began his Junior year in high school with only 7 credits. And finally, learning was difficult, very difficult. He felt overwhelmed in circumstances that would challenge any adult.

However, a few of us at White Pine High School took Steven under our wing. We worked with him as he wrestled with assignments; as he failed some assignments, then classes; as he struggled to put more effort in to a seemingly useless battle to catch up, let alone complete high school; as he moved away and returned to Ely in the middle of the school year, having fallen even further behind. Some days the only progress Steven made was agreeing to give school one more week, or even another day.

Yet, by giving it just one more week, time and time again, Steven made progress. Staff helped him to see why graduating was important, and what it could lead to. We worked with him. Some cried with him. We taught him how to push through difficult tasks, how to compensate for what didn’t come naturally. We helped him to consider his academic and personal challenges as opportunities to grow, to make him a better person. He eventually learned that while there were many things he couldn’t change in his life, he could choose how to react to those challenges. He found confidence, determination, and diligence. He found out who he was and what he could achieve, regardless of the opposition.

Steven graduated from White Pine High School. He is the first to admit it took everything he had, and is very willing to let us share his success story. He accomplished this by finding strength he didn’t initially see in himself, but others could. He now works for the WPCSD and wants to pursue a career in education.  The Stevens in our school district are why we come to work every day.