Believe in Them

Sometimes the grind of parenting a child with a hard history gets to me. Sometimes I’m tattered teaching a child how to give and accept love. Sometimes I’m worn out fighting the same battle over the same boundary for 600 straight days.

And then someone says something like, “Wow, I just can’t imagine becoming a mom the way you did.”

On a day with grace, I’m able to seal my sharp tongue behind my lips.

Sometimes affirmation follows. It sounds like this, “I admire the way you see who they are made to be rather than who they are right now.”

My knotted heart begins to untwist. Even if I get nothing else right as a mother, the only thing I really need to do is believe in them.

It is this simple. I believe in them.

A few weeks ago I was meeting with a team of teachers, talking about the possibilities ahead for their young writers. They were quick to tell me all of the things their students couldn’t do.

It’s easy to be tattered at the beginning of the school year by all our students aren’t doing as writers. We remember the mature June writers who left a few months ago. Sometimes we get worn out fighting the same battles over conventions or writing process for years in a row.

So I said, “I admire the way you take students who don’t do this and won’t do that and transform them into independent writers with quirky stories and big voices by the end of the school year.”

The teachers sat a little taller and smiled. “We do that, don’t we?”

Yes. We do that, because we believe our students can.

Just like parenting, the one thing we must get right as teachers of writers is to believe in them.

Please plan on joining Christy Rush-Levine and me for the #TandCWriters Twitter chat on Sunday (9/7) at 8:00 pm. We will be talking about all of the ways we prevent our belief in student writers from becoming worn and tattered. Naturally celebration will weave throughout this conversation, but so will formative assessment, inspiring books, and good ol’ grit. I hope you will join us!


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  1. If we didn't believe in the possibilities, we would live a miserable life. I love the way you support your family and teachers by believing in them. I will do my best to be at the chat, probably in lurking mode.

  2. I have the chat on the calendar! And, the believing is the best thing, even now when I only work with one lesson or one group in isolation, I believe they (we) will have a great time of learning together. Sometimes I've thought it's my job to help parents celebrate their kids too. They don't always receive affirmation for good parenting, & doing that is also helpful to my teaching. Love hearing your thinking about this, Ruth. Hope all the kids' years have started well!