Mrs. Baxter's Success Story
If you have read the success story from one of our students named Destiny, you might enjoy reading this Q&A session with her teacher. We asked Amy Baxter, Destiny’s third grade teacher, to share her perspective with us. She was able to give us some of her insights after working with Destiny and seeing her make significant life changes.
BIST: Were there times when you felt that things would never change?
Mrs. Baxter: Of course! Recovery lasted a long time. Sometimes we took a step forward and two back. It often felt frustrating and futile. That’s where the team comes in for support and reassurance. We wondered how long, but we believed in Destiny’s ability to turn things around. Improvements were small at first. Remember, eight years of habits had to be changed. It takes time to build a relationship. We knew for Destiny, trusting adults would not happen quickly.
BIST: What support did Cindy and Polly (principal and assistant principal) provide? Could you have done this without their support? If you had had a recovery room, could you have done this without their emotional support?
Mrs. Baxter: First of all, none of this would have happened without them. Cindy and Polly supervised the recovery process. With this, they took on an active role in Destiny’s recovery. They were committed to helping her learn replacement skills and begin to trust adults. They taught the lessons that continued Destiny’s education. They also helped me with phone calls and contacts with Mom when I needed support, or just a break from that routine. When Destiny began to re-enter the classroom, they came with her. I would coach her and practice with her beforehand so she knew what to expect and what to do, and then they would sit with her and help her be successful when she came. Afterward, they debriefed her and reflected. We often had daily meetings on how things were going and what we needed to do next.
Another aspect that is often overlooked is the long-term relationship they formed with Destiny and her mom and the importance of that relationship as Destiny continued to the next grades. I created a strong bond with both Destiny and her mother during that 3rd grade year, but Destiny’s change was just beginning. Because Cindy and Polly had a trusting relationship with Destiny and her mom, they could continue Destiny’s plans and changes as she went to other grade levels and teams. Destiny’s success continued into 4th and 5th grade because they were there.
BIST: What recommendations would you give to other teachers if they have a student that is struggling and needs the recovery process?
Mrs. Baxter: First, never lose your sense of humor. Recovery kids will look for every loophole and then some. Remember the philosophy – grace and accountability. Accept your students for who they are – problems and all, but hold them accountable. Believe in their ability to change and grow, and believe in your ability to help make it happen.
Also, watch for the small signs of growth and trust. After a particularly trying day with Destiny and an after school session, I took her home. We had a great conversation in the car, and when we reached her apartment she looked at me and asked if I had time could I come in and meet her sister. She was reaching out.