Keep doing great things. Keep telling kids that they matter and that they are smart enough. Keep giving them opportunities to show what they know and can do:
Thank you for sharing this story and for showing that there are ways of debunking the narrative of “not smart enough” that many kids feel every day.
I had a similar moment in high school. While I didn’t have an internal monologue telling me I wasn’t smart, I had a terrible experience in Middle School and I was still under the impression that nothing I did mattered. When my English teacher recognized me in front of our entire school as the English student of the year for our class, I knew that there was something else I could become. I was validated in a way that I didn’t know that I needed. I was recognized both for my accomplishments and the hope of what I might do next.
I think this is much of what these students were feeling. They feel validated for their work, and they feel empowered to continue to build what comes next. It is clear that you made a difference in these children’s lives. It is clear that their “not smart” narrative no longer makes sense. It is through learning and creating that these things happen, though. It is a natural culmination point, rather than an artificial one that happens every day as points are awarded. I like that.