Education


A teacher at school recently passed away from cancer. This particular teacher was the advisor for the Community of Caring group in which students plan and conduct various service projects throughout the year for members of the community.

Today, students at the school clad themselves in pink and the basketball team and pep band will have a “pink out” game to show their support for this teacher. As further proof that the students and administration at this school understand and care about their community, their marquee had a special message:

Sign for Ms Daily jan292016 small

Teenagers are awesome.

 

Three years ago, I taught a troop of ninth graders. This year, those ninth graders became seniors, and I was able to attend their graduation ceremonies. What a satisfying treat! And what great men and women those teenagers had turned into! I was thrilled—and sometimes pleasantly surprised—to hear each of their names called as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. They had made it! And I was proud of each of them.

I believe the theory that a teacher always remembers her first year of teaching. These new graduates were my first students, so it was only normal that I wanted to see how they turned out. But their class with me probably had more meaning for me than it did for them, and that, too, was normal. So it was really no surprise to me that I felt a happy disconnect from my now-graduating ninth graders as they moved on with their lives with little or no thought for me. I was thankful I had some influence in their lives, and I’m glad I did my best to make that influence count. I was happy to let them move on.

It’s true that, as teachers, we affect eternity and we should take that influence seriously. But, honestly, we usually don’t know exactly how or how much we have affected any of our students—or whether we have affected them at all—unless they say so. If that happens, it might not come until much later. It was over a decade before I actually thanked the specific teacher who influenced my career choice. And as you readers know, I work with people who sometimes reach middle-age before they realize or admit to anyone their former teachers’ life-changing influences. Watching my former ninth-graders graduate made me realize I may never know my influence on them. Many simply and successfully moved on each year without another thought for me—and that’s fine. I hope I was a good teacher; I hope I influenced each of them for the better and even offered inspiration. As our students move on, so do we.

In the end, it really is the student’s success; it is their work, ambition, and determination—together with supportive parents, teachers, and other positive influences—that give them the ability to walk across that graduation stage. What a privilege it was for me to be one teacher in my students’ lives, and what a big difference that short experience was to me.

Some teachers don’t attend their school’s yearly graduation, but they should. They help put our work in perspective and offer satisfying closure for us and our students, allowing us all to gladly and confidently move on to the new, exciting adventures life has to offer. On to the next adventure!

Just when you wonder about the state of things, wonderful events happen that reaffirm your joy in life and faith in the good of humanity.

You notice a man smiling as he walks down the sidewalk holding two wrapped, red roses along with his grocery bag, which means some special someone is going to get a lovely surprise when that man gets home.

While feeling a bit helpless as you watch one of your favorite TV teams come in last at the finish line, you can only to stare in overjoyed shock a minute later as the winners of this particular race approach the losers and share their winnings with them—-because the winners knew what their fellow-racers where racing for, and were so touched by the losing team’s motivation that they wanted to help.

Spread across the front page of the local news section of the paper one day is an inspiring story about a professor of a local executive MBA program who decided to make his lessons genuine and meaningful for his students. Instead of the usual role-playing negotiations that would take place in class, he assigned his two classes to make a plan and raise $65,000 for the local branch of a wonderful organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening diseases. The MBA students raised over twice the amount, not only learning the business skills necessary for their future careers, but also learning about their community and the wonderful people who are in it——people they will, hopefully, one day be serving and working with. Their service reminded me of a special time a few months ago when our own family went to this wonderful wish-granting charity to watch our tough Little Bird raise her star among the others who had also had their wishes granted. Along with the inspiring stories of the children and their wishes, we also got to hear about these amazing, unselfish, loving volunteers who work with these children and their families to make their wishes come true. These fine, everyday people have granted amazing, sometimes impossible-sounding wishes for countless children. Don’t believe in miracles? Try reading about the dear boy whose dream it was to meet the Pope, and the myriads of compassionate people in government who did everything possible to get that dear boy, his father, and a translator to the Vatican where the child and his father were not only blessed personally by the Pope, but also got to have a meal with him. Or about the teenage girl whose dream it was to become a dancer, so the foundation arranged it so she was able to attend a prestigious ballet school for a week learning with the other ballerinas for a week. Or about the boy who wanted to be a scientist, so NASA not only gave him his own embroidered lab coat and a telescope, but also turned his entire bedroom into a genuine working lab. Reading these inspiring stories and listening to these volunteers, you realize the world is full of wonderful, inspiring, often quiet people whose joy comes in loving, serving, and rejoicing in the dreams of others.

Then one Monday, you gather with a few other moms at your child’s school for the last week of recording the data from the school reading program. For the past 30 or so weeks, you have met with these fine ladies to log each student’s entry for this rewarding reading program, enjoying the camaraderie, the laughter, and the “second breakfasts” of chocolate treats and seasonal sugar cookies. The fantastic woman in charge has made this last week a party for everyone, complete with juice, bagels, and a special treat——genuine Mexican vanilla from Mexico. (An exotic gift! Just for checking off reading folders once a week! Did I say this woman was fantastic?)

As we all finish up, the fantastic woman then tells us the news: one of our very own teachers is receiving a prestigious state teacher award. This is a big deal. Only two elementary, two junior high, two senior high teachers, one principal from each level, and one volunteer in the entire state get this award each a year. And this fine woman, who was one of my child’s teachers, has now been nominated by a handful of parents and our principal. She has no idea. So here we go, traipsing down the hallway with the principal, parents, her husband, children, and siblings, a photographer and the wife of the man who created this award which bears his name——Mrs. H herself. She walks into the class, introduces herself, and announces why she is there. The class erupts in cheers and keeps it up as the rest of us in the entourage fill the room. Mrs. H praises our great teacher, who is obviously overwhelmed with awe and emotion, and tells the students to always remember this wonderful lady and how she cares for them. She then turns to our teacher and tells her there will be a special dinner in which she and the other educators will be honored, and then adds the shocking news, “And my husband will present you with a ten-thousand dollar check.” Our teacher’s jaw drops as she exclaims, “Oh my goodness!!” and almost falls over as her students erupt in more cheers. Obviously, this aspect of the award was not expected. This wonderful teacher then hugs all of us, gets a hug from some of her former students, and folks wipe away more tears. Those of us who are teachers look at this woman, rejoice in her well-deserved recognition, and hope to live up to her example. This is what good teaching looks like and feels like, and this type of glorious day is what we aim for.

What an amazing way to begin a Monday.

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