Stephen Bell


“The bell was about to ring. It was almost the end of 3rd period, meaning my most challenging class was getting ready to tear into my classroom like a bull in a china shop (almost literally). It was our last day of school before Fall Break, a much-needed respite from what felt like drowning in the sea of “first year teaching.” This was far from what I pictured when I agreed to teach 7th and 8th grade science in a Title I school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While I was trying to keep A in his seat, B from throwing a paper dart, C and E from running out of the room, and G from putting gum in someone’s hair, J came up to me and demanded my attention. In his hand was a drawing of two people smiling, one significantly taller than the other.

Teach for America was always reminding us, “you can make a difference!” “You can be the change!” Thinking it was he and I, my heart swelled—“I have done it!” My thoughts were quickly halted when he told me, “this is me and my son.”
It was in this moment when I was reminded he had so much more fighting for his attention than my lessons on physical vs. chemical changes. J was the first of many students I encountered that had more going on in their lives than just their schoolwork.

My pursuit of Social Work field really began in these moments when I realized I love working with middle school kids. I want to hear their story, and I really don’t have the desire to teach them about protons, neutrons, and electrons (don’t get me wrong, it’s important, I just don’t want to be the one to do it).”