The last 13 months have been the most humbling of my life. Since our daughter Dublin arrived in April 2022, I’ve been more exhausted and discombobulated than I knew was possible. But as parents do, I keep showing up for her and providing as best I can.
I also have a deeper sense of gratitude for my life circumstances than ever before. Despite the steep learning curve of early parenthood, I can offer Dublin a supportive environment for learning and growing. We’re lucky to have bought our first home before the current housing crisis. My husband is a school chef who is passionate about feeding her a variety of nutritious meals. Because of my career in education and publishing, she is constantly surrounded by a sea of books which increases her chances for literacy success.
I’m not describing our home life to brag or to hold it up as the singular ideal. We’re by no means perfect parents, and we have a tremendous amount of unearned privilege that allows us to support Dublin. I’m mentioning this scenario because when I think about some children’s lack of access to food, secure housing, or affordable healthcare, I get overwhelmed. Instead of spiraling into existentialism or accepting the inequitable circumstances, I think to myself: what CAN I do? I can show up for kids who–through no fault of their parents but systemic circumstances–attend school unprepared for ideal learning.
Being individually present with a student for 15 to 30 minutes might not seem like a lot, but it can be life-changing. Consider the refugee student who is less scared to speak because a coach wants to hear their brilliant thoughts. Or think about the student who starts the session saying, “I’m not a good writer. I have dyslexia,” and ends the session beaming because a coach tells them how smart they are. Coaches are trained to let go of judgment, see past superficial barriers, and highlight students’ ideas. These seemingly small acts are vital moments of empowerment. When a person is learning something for the first time, a supportive learning environment is revolutionary. For my daughter, taking her first step is a journey of faith, courage, and inner drive to grow beyond her current capacity. The same is true for students as they learn how to engage in the writing and revision process. During these vulnerable moments of evolution, mentorship can build students’ self-esteem and encourage them to adopt a growth mindset.
Coaching demonstrates to students that adults other than their teachers and families care about them. We teach young people that no matter their identities or ideologies, they can receive guidance from experienced citizens. It takes a village to raise a child. As I start my motherhood journey, I’m thankful to know that the WCM village will be here for Dublin and for thousands of Montana students every year. After all, we’re in this together.
--Cassie Sheets, Executive Director