Sam: Why do you do the work you do with young people?
Melissa Wright: I do the work that I do to help show others the potential within them and to help to continue to develop leaders. Also to show them the impact that they can have and to help them build skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Sam: What inspired you to get into this work?
Melissa Wright: I had a teacher, Heather, that inspired me to go into education. She was my French teacher and student council advisor. She helped show me the leader I could be and believed in me. I was so blessed to work with her in grade 12 as student council president and now I work with her on the New Brunswick Student leadership association. So it really has come full circle and I am so glad that I am able to give back."It is amazing people like Heather, that works to give back to students not only in the classroom but outside of the classroom, that inspired me to become an educator." – Melissa Wright Click To Tweet
Sam: What gives you hope? What do you think is the biggest opportunity in education right now?
Melissa Wright: My students give me hope every day. They give me hope that the future is bright, that we will get through this and that we can do hard things."The biggest opportunity in education right now is to shift how we have always done things. Now is a great time to try something new and make a change for the better." -Melissa Wright Click To Tweet
We are all trying things that may not be working but we are doing great things that are making education better. We need to make sure those things that are having a great impact continue.
Sam: Share a story about a situation where you witnessed a student transformation due to the impact of a caring educator.
Melissa Wright: I had a student a few years ago who was in my grade 11 math class and failed the course. It was the student’s second time taking the course. Mom had met with me at the beginning of the semester expressing her concern for the student. I had told her we would do whatever we could to help him through.
Throughout the semester the student missed a lot of time, however, when the student was in class they were never a behavior problem. Due to time missed, he unfortunately didn’t get the credit. However, he knew that I had another section of the course next semester and wrote on his exam “I’ll pass with flying colours next semester, you’ll see”.
The second semester came and the student was working very hard, coming to class every day and doing all the things he needed to do. Then one morning he came in, and I noticed something was off. He was not his normal self. So I decided to make a positive phone call home to Mom. I called her and when she answered and I told her who I was she said, “Just a minute” and I could hear her walking down the hall.
She came back on the line with a bit of panic in her voice and said,” Ok I am somewhere quiet and can talk now, is everything ok?”. I told her everything was great and was just calling her to tell her how proud I was of her son. I told her how well he was doing and all the great things he was being recognized for at our school due to his hard work and improvement.
Silence on the phone for a second. Then she spoke. She proceeded to tell me that my call meant so much to her. Her son had just spent his last weekend with his father and would not see him again. That they were in the process of selling their house and her son couldn’t find his cell phone before he left this morning so he had a bad start to his day.
She said the recognition we provided him with meant so much and he was so proud. He was coming home and putting his certificates on the fridge, and she said he didn’t even do that in elementary school.
These recognitions he was receiving at school were having an impact and he turned his grades around."Most times we never hear the impact these things have on students but know that you are impacting more than you hear about. If we made a difference for that one student, then all those recognitions we did were worth it." – Melissa Wright Click To Tweet
Sam: What unique ideas, tools or software are you finding very helpful in your practice right now?
Melissa Wright: I am finding using extended screen very helpful with my online teaching. It allows me to see the students while I am teaching and chat at the same time. This makes students feel more comfortable as they do not have to unmute and they do not come up on the smartboard when asking a question.
Sam: What is your motivator (or your driver)?
Melissa Wright: My motivator is my students. To have the opportunity to see the potential within them, the amazing ideas that they bring to the table and to see them grow as leaders is one of the greatest motivators and gifts I have been given as an educator."To know that I can positively impact someone every day, is also a huge motivator for me." – Melissa Wright Click To Tweet
Sam: What advice would you give your younger self when you just got into education?
Melissa Wright: The advice I would give my younger self when I just got into education was to find a way to make connections and a positive impact on as many people as possible. Be sure to work with students outside of the classroom as that will be some of the most rewarding and important work that you do.
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Sam Demma is an entrepreneur, youth coach, and keynote speaker. He co-founded the volunteer organization PickWaste, created the High Performing Student, delivered two TEDx Talks, and is a Board Director of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. Sam’s mission is to provide students with the hope, tools and strategies they need to become servant leaders in their schools and in the lives of those around them. www.samdemma.com