An installment in the Boston Prep storytelling series “The Power of a Moment”
As told by Jaiden Dorsainvil, Boston Prep Class of 2020
Disappointment filled my mother’s face. Deeper and stronger than any I had ever seen before. Normally, when she looked at me, my mom’s eyes lit up with pride. But not today. As we sat in our third-quarter parent teacher conference, my sophomore history teacher, Mr. Springer, detailed for my mother the truth – I had failed the previous two quarters of his class. For the first time in my life, all I could see was extreme disappointment and sadness as my mother looked at me. In that moment, my heart broke. I knew I had let down my biggest champion. I knew it was time to change. I could be and needed to be better.
I started attending Boston Prep in the sixth grade, and throughout middle school, I was what I would describe as a mediocre student. I did what I needed to do to get decent grades and nothing more. I knew I could do much better, but good enough seemed, well, good enough. And that worked for me for a long time – until 10th grade. By 10th grade, the work had advanced significantly, but my mindset had not. I spent class periods focused on cracking jokes and getting laughs out of my peers. I was a three-season athlete, and yet over my entire sophomore year, I was only eligible to play in three games due to my poor grades. I felt bad when my teammates said, “Jaiden, we need you on the court,” but I knew I could win them back over the next day in class with my jokes and antics.
I wanted to do well, but I didn’t have the drive to put in the hard work to change – until my teachers pushed me to see in myself what they saw in me. That parent-teacher conference with Mr. Springer was the tipping point, but only because it was actually the third in a string of tough but caring conversations with teachers about my choices.
A month or so earlier, Mr. Vermette, my math teacher, had pulled me out of class when I was acting out and said, “Jaiden, don’t settle for average. You can do so much more. I see it in you.”
Shortly after that, I bombed on an ELA project. I was on the verge of failing the class. Ms. Johnson pulled me aside and laid on some tough love. She made it clear that it was time to pull it together and step up. But she also pointed out all the people who care about me, are there to support me, and want to see me succeed. As tears filled my eyes, she said, “See? You do care. You can be great, and you want to be great. Now it’s on you to make it happen.”
Which brings us to the parent-teacher conference with Mr. Springer. The words of Mr. Vermette and Ms. Johnson were still rattling around in my head, but they were two teachers with whom I had special relationships. I knew they cared about me. Mr. Springer, on the other hand, was just a teacher to me; we had never really connected. And yet here he was, telling me how much he believed in me, patting me on the back as I cried, telling me that he knew I could be more. Suddenly, it dawned on me how many people were invested in supporting me and helping me be successful. If all these people cared about my success, then I should do.
My change started small. I set a goal to get all my homework done that afternoon. After a string of successful days, I set a goal to complete all my homework for a week. And from there, I began to think bigger. Through it all, I leaned on those around me. Mr. Springer became like a father figure to me. Ms. Johnson was like a second mother.
This year, as a junior, I’m a different person. I raise my hand for every question, even if I don’t know the answer. I’m the first to offer to help when a peer needs it. I am positive and try to uplift those around me. I take the time to ask my teachers how their day is going. I still have a sense of humor, but I know the time and place for jokes. I try to be a role model to my classmates and my younger siblings, encouraging them and pushing them to be their best. My GPA is over a 3.2, and I’ve played in all of my games this year.
A few weeks ago, almost exactly a year after the day of that parent-teacher conference with Mr. Springer, I won the Du Bois Award, one of the highest honors at Boston Prep. I listened as the presenters described that week’s winner: “He bounced back from an incredibly tough sophomore year to become a positive force for good – working hard and owning his actions in a way he wasn’t able to the previous year.” As I realized that they were describing me, I put my head down and smiled. This was it. All of the people who had supported me came across my mind, and in that instant, I knew that I had made them proud. I used what they said as motivation to become the best I can be, resulting in this amazing recognition and award. That moment of disappointment and despair one year ago had put me on the path to this moment, one of celebration, pride, and incredible joy. There are moments in life - good and bad - that define and shape a person. I am so grateful for the Boston Prep teachers who believed in me, pushed me, and helped create these moments that together have made me the person I am proud to be today.