Literacy Leadership Blog

News and reflections from experts and practitioners on the latest literacy research, events and daily practice

< Back

From Despair, To Guilt, To Hope: Reflecting on Our Transformational Experiences in Teaching

Categories: Education & Teaching, Educators, General, In the news, Reading Strategies for K-12, Teacher Best Practices, Webinars

Blog Author: Terrie Noland

You were that kid. The full package. Your teachers always gave you rave reviews. Your parents never felt the need to really “worry about you” when it came to school. The awards came in year after year---spelling bee winner, top math student, best invention, top attendance, spirit award, and not to mention a recognized athlete. Or singer, dancer, actor. Maybe all of them because you knew how “natural” school and extracurriculars were for you and you felt like a superstar. You were the profile student. If anything, you created the mold from which all other students should fit in.

Then you went on to college and still held those accolades within the palm of your hand. It never left, you were motivated, you loved school. The envy of the crowd; the envy of the parents who struggle with their children, of your peers who need help, but couldn’t get it. You knew you would be an amazing teacher someday because you were the smartest, most recognized student your entire life. One would never expect that someday, despite all of the recognition and success, you would learn that all of this was not what mattered after all.


You leave your own bubble of academic success and go out into the world with so much enthusiasm to change the world one student at a time. You fit the profile of a prepared teacher. Except you realize that you are not.

You start to work with students. Their academic needs and beliefs about themselves defy your preconceptions of what you thought you could do to engage, motivate and teach. You look around and see the child with their head down, the child that is acting out, and the child who throws the book to the ground in frustration, or the child that just doesn’t get reading. How can this be? School came so easy for you. You’re an awesome teacher, why aren’t these kids engaged? What happens is that these realizations cause you to feel a sense of despair.

It’s then that you find yourself on a mission - a mission to learn more, a mission to understand the why behind what is going on for your students and a mission to never let any student feel defeated in school. Learning is no longer one ideal profile, but several ones that have just as much potential than those learners who just don’t need help. The experience changes the way you prioritize the accolades. Instead, you prioritize equity. Equity for allowing others to reach their potential, no matter what their needs are, just like you did.


This mission takes you on a journey of discovery and growth and you become immersed in understanding the science of reading because being able to read is the foundation of learning. You become a trained professional in how to teach an evidence based structured literacy program and you see so much growth and progress for your students. However, another feeling starts to creep in. Your despair has now turned to guilt. Guilt of knowing that your first year students didn’t get the best you. Guilt of knowing that you could have impacted students if you would have just been taught properly from the get go. Guilt of knowing that you failed your students.


The end of the story doesn’t stop there, your growth and transformation continues. Hope begins to peek into your teacher heart and spirit. A hope that says, now that I know better, I want to light a flame of understanding and enthusiasm in other teachers, I want to do better. A hope that says your students are getting the best you. A hope that says when students are learning at your feet, they will build a foundation of reading that is their launching pad for a successful academic career and a purposeful life. A hope that says, continue to learn, continue to grow and continue to provide every student with equity in reaching their full potential.


"I remember teaching my Pre-K kids how to trace letters without attaching any sounds to those letters. We did tracing papers and that was IT! Now that I know better, I want to do better and I want other teachers to learn from my mistakes. I have figured out my own personal growth plan and strive to do better every day. #KnowBetterDoBetter" - Terrie Noland, C.A.L.P. - Vice President, Educator Leadership and Learning

Are you on a journey of knowing better in order to do better? What transformational experience changed the way you look at learning? Tag us on Twitter and Facebook and use the hashtag #KnowBetterDoBetter and share your story! Or email us at

Support Your Students with Reading Deficits with the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution

The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a multi-sensory reading accommodation that levels the playing field for students who struggle to read due to a reading deficit, providing them the opportunity achieve in school and in life. Gaining access to the books they want to read—and the books they need to read—in an easy-to-absorb format can be a game changer. Sign up for a demo or get more information today to experience the satisfaction of seeing students who have never before experienced reading success blossom, with improved grades, higher test scores and increased confidence and self-esteem.

Sign up for the Whole Child Literacy Newsletter

Join our community and get the latest sent right to your inbox! Stay up to date on the latest news, research, and practical guidance.