Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

It's All About Me!

On School #30 My Little Engine

“I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!” said my little engine, Nicole. And I knew she could. And she did!

Nicole was a perky six-year-old. With dark brown hair, big eyes, and a ready smile, She was a pleasure to have in my first grade class. She was very cooperative, had lots of friends, and seemed to enjoy school. Nicole was bright and did very well academically … but, sadly she didn’t think so.

She worried if she missed a spelling word on a quiz or got a math problem wrong. She was nervous when called on, even when she knew she knew the answer. Her anxiety was not apparent in the classroom. She hid it well. But when she went home, she fretted over her work and school. She felt as if she were not good enough. Of course her mom was worried. Her dad, too. And so was I, once they alerted me.

I was surprised that this seemingly very capable child was suffering from lack of self-esteem, from feelings of inadequacy. One afternoon I sat down with Nicole and her mother for a serious heart-to-heart talk. It took a lot of convincing to turn Nicole’s thinking around. I told her the story of The Little Engine That Could. You know the one. The little engine had to pull a trainload of toys over the mountain in time for Christmas morning, but it was a daunting, nearly impossible task for such a small engine.

But Little Engine did not want to disappoint all of the little boys and girls who were expecting a new toy for Christmas. The little engine pulled. She puffed. She tugged and hauled and repeated the refrain over and over, “I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!” unto she finally crested the hill and chugged the rest of the way down the mountain and into town.

I saw the glimmer in Nicole’s eyes as I neared the end of the story. She got it! “Do you know what you are?” I asked. With a slight nod and a smile, she answered, “the engine.”

Nicole remains my engine after all these years. When she graduated 8th grade, I sent her a congratulatory card. It had a picture of an engine cresting a hill. It read, “I knew you could.”

Before Nicole graduated high school, she nominated me for Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Some years later Nicole’s mother gave the recommendation letter that Nicole wrote to me. I treasure it. Perhaps in a later post I will share it with you.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.com)

(PS Actually, I was nominated a total of three times for Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Unfortunately I never learned which of my students nominated me for the additional two books.)

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October 11, 2011 - Posted by | On School | , , , , , ,

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