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“I listened to him.”

Heidi Rieck, 2017/18 AmeriCorps Promise Fellow with the Dreamline Program at Rochester Kellogg Middle School

“This morning on my way into school I was stopped by a teacher who asked with a huge smile: ‘How on Earth did you get Ryan to come to class and participate in taking the test?! What did you do?’ I felt very proud and answered: ‘I listened to him, I affirmed him, and I challenged him to practice for his future.’

I saw him sitting in the hallway earlier in the day with his head down. I told him I was happy to see him that day and reminded him if he needed a quiet space for a break or someone to chat with he could come visit my classroom. In the afternoon he walked in and sat down with authority, his binder falling to the floor per usual Ryan style. He told me he was disgusted by some things happening currently with school. He was feeling as though he had no autonomy.

I listened and facilitated discussion- he has some great points about improvements to make to our school system. He told me about his previous successes with student government and making change in his elementary school. We talked about his love for computers and how he might like to have his own company someday. We spent maybe ten minutes discussing these things.

He told me he is tired of worksheets and how school has turned into memorizing and repeating rather than learning through interests and discovery. I agreed with him, then I challenged him to see a different perspective. The worksheet is teaching him more than simply what is on the page- such as timeliness, organization, responsibility. I reminded him that these are important qualities to practice if he truly does want to own a PC company someday. He told me he had never thought of it that way. He smiled.

It wasn’t all fixed at this point- he still wasn’t a fan of heading back to class for an exam. We chatted a bit more about how he can practice future skills in school now. He agreed to take a walk with me. We walked to his classroom and he entered with a newfound respect for school- even if it was slight. His teacher was happy to see him and astounded that he agreed to take the exam. I thanked Ryan for the conversation and for sharing his ideas with me. I affirmed how important his critical thinking and communication skills are.

I walked out of the room and did a little happy dance; I am so proud of Ryan.”


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