Just before this new school year begins I was reminded of something important. Something I need to share with my readers…especially teachers getting ready to return to the classroom or those ready to enter the classroom for the first time.
This important reminder happened at a wedding. I was honored to be invited and was there to witness a beautiful bride and her groom beginning their new life together. The bride was a former student of mine, Kaitlyn. I taught this young lady in high school in a Teacher Academy program. She was a gal who was always fun to have in the classroom. She was friendly, upbeat and creative. Today she has just finished her second year of teaching and is half way through her Masters program. She is an intervention specialist in an elementary school who also wants to become a school administrator. Last Saturday she was a bride.
At her gorgeous wedding reception her dad walked past me. I recognized him easily because he was one of those great “go-t0” fathers you could count on whenever you were up to your ear lobes with a project that needed a father’s touch. He once helped the kids turn a grocery cart into a fabulous float “they” had designed for the Homecoming Parade. As he passed me at the wedding reception I put my hand on his arm and joked, “Hey, I have another school project I could use some help with.”
His face broke into a wonderful smile. We talked about how beautiful his daughter looked as a bride. Then he delivered the message I want to share with you. This is what he said.
You are the lady who changed my daughter’s life. My wife and I have talked about it for years. We are so grateful to you for changing her into the wonderful confident young woman she has become. And you did it with one phone call. Did I ever tell you that? One single phone call from you and she became a completely different person. We can never thank you enough.
Here’s the important point teachers. Listen carefully. I have no memory of that phone call. NONE! Not… one… word. That is the way it is in the teaching profession. This has happened to me enough times that I swear to you that this fact is true.
Frequently you will be making your greatest impact when you are completely unaware of it.
The first time this happened to me it was mind-boggling. I couldn’t believe it. But by now, after decades of teaching, I know to trust those words and their sincerity. I cherish and appreciate the moment when it occurs. We teachers frequently never know about the ways we change lives. But if you are passionate about teaching and making students feel valued, it will happen to you. I hope you are committed enough to the field of teaching to stay with the profession long enough to allow this to happen in your life. The satisfaction it will bring you defies description.
Later on during this special wedding evening, the mother of the bride approached me and repeated the words her husband had shared. The bride even stopped by and told me in person while her groom verified her words.
While I still have no recollection of that phone call the dad gave me just enough details that I can imagine it. He said something about she didn’t show up for an event and I called her.
Perhaps she registered for Teacher Academy and then got cold feet about it. I often invited students into my classroom during the summer months to meet me. I’d have snacks and let them come in and help me put up bulletin boards or we’d just sit around and talk.
It was just a casual event when they could meet some of the other students who wanted to be future teachers. If she didn’t show up, I know I would have called her to reassure her. She may have thought she needed a 4.0 GPA to be a teacher. I would have listened to her fears and reassured her that many students profit the most from teachers who had their own challenges in school. All of us feel like we don’t fit in somewhere from time to time. I would have stayed on the phone until she and I had built a rapport. I know I would have done anything possible to make it easier for her to enter my classroom for the first time. And so Kaitlyn joined my class.
In her second year of Teacher Academy Kaitlyn wrote, filmed and created a video about a program we had in our school called Firebird Link. This was an initiative that planned activities throughout the school to help all students feel valued. I wish you could see how creative this film was. She started her film by showing just the feet of all the students (thousands of them) walking in the hallways of our school. Her words were poignant. “Where do I fit in?” Kaitlyn won the national first place award from Future Educators of America for making an effective video to promote the teaching profession. I was so proud to see her and her film shared up on that national stage.
Would she have been just as valuable a student if she hadn’t won an award? Of course! My classroom was an eclectic mix of brains, athletes, band members, theatre kids and students without any identifying labels at all. We built a community in our classroom and supported one another. We had one thing in common. We wanted to help other students learn.
Some of my best “teaching”, my “change-your-life” moments didn’t happen in front of the classroom. They happened in those private moments when I had one-on-one conversations with students. One might show up before school just needing to talk, or hang back before leaving my classroom at the end of a bell. Some dropped me notes as they left class. They’d find me at lunch time or come up and chat with me after I went to see a game or a play they were in. In Kaitlyn’s case it was one phone call that gave her the courage to walk toward a profession she was meant to pursue. One single phone call.
My hope is that this story will help you start your school year with the goal of making the most of those small moments you have to make a student feel valued.
More Good News!
- The boomerang kid got a job! If you haven’t “met” the boomerang kid, scroll back a couple of entries and read the blog post about Michael.
- Congratulations to all my former students who have landed their first teaching jobs this year! You make me so proud.
- I have been booked by several school districts to speak to their teachers and administrators during this school year. I love to inspire educators face to face and this excites me.
- A couple of districts are considering my latest book for educators TEACH…To Change Lives as a year-long book club project for their teachers to discuss and reflect on throughout the year. What a great idea.
TEACH…To Change Lives
Available autographed or in large quantities from the author: email@example.com
Also available at Amazon.com
Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your group: firstname.lastname@example.org