On my first day on the job as a speech therapist in September 2020, my administration notified me that we were shifting to remote learning due to multiple cases of COVID-19 at our site. This school year, I faced a major adjustment yet again as classes became 100% in-person. The past two years have been filled with unique and challenging experiences that taught me the essence of grit.
Grit is being able to consistently work toward achieving a goal despite setbacks and challenges. I am the type of person who likes to plan everything ahead of time. I believe that a carefully thought-out plan yields positive results. But life has shown me that planning is not always possible.
As a newbie in the field, it took some time for me to realize that growth and progress are not linear. There were weeks when I would achieve remarkable progress with my students and weeks when I was struggling to be productive.
There were days when I gave in to my self-doubt and was on the verge of giving up. Maintaining a balance by immersing myself in self-reflection and taking mindfulness breaks was necessary for me to stay on track. I set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals for myself and realistic expectations for the people around me. Despite wandering through what seems like a maze, I have come to realize that slow progress is still progress.
In my first year as a speech teacher, when I started dwelling on one anxious thought, it would soon branch out to other nerve-wracking ones. Now when my anxiety kicks in, I reach out to my colleagues, mentors and supervisors.
Being part of a community at my school has been vital to my professional growth, and establishing a good relationship with the people I work with has been of the utmost importance. Thanks to my colleagues’ guidance and encouragement, I have seen my anxiety be slowly replaced with feelings of hope and confidence.
I continue to feel immensely grateful to the school community that gave me a heartwarming welcome. I feel hopeful because I know I have the community’s support and the members have mine as well. We are not meant to live in isolation. Community is essential.
I’ve learned we always have a choice about how we end our day. As we count down the days to summer, I find myself looking back not only on the days when I achieved significant progress with my students but also on days that challenged me to the core.
During a recent speech therapy session, one of my students encouraged his peer by saying “It’s OK, try again.” After the child made a failed attempt, the boy asked, “Need help?” This exchange encourages me to ask for help when I need it, too. It also inspires me to keep going and give up on “giving up” — because ultimately it takes grit to be great.
Sparrow is the pseudonym for a second-year speech teacher in the Bronx.