This post strays slightly from the posts for the class but I felt the need to reflect. The past week has been an incredibly emotional week. It is been difficult to find time to work on my major project or any additional work outside of my job. I found that I was on a roller coaster of ups and downs and realized that in fact my reading for the week tied into everything that was going on. Being educator is normally an emotional rollercoaster. I am with “my kids” during the week sometimes more than their parents are. It is difficult not to be moved by the children in my classroom. They come to school and share stories of what’s going on at home, other parts of their world, and with their friends. The openness and honesty of these children is sometime shocking. They will tell you why they didn’t eat a meal last night or why they have that bruise or even why they didn’t get much sleep last night.
So because I am an educator my job is emotionally challenging on a daily basis. Add to this the fact that I work daily with students who have behavioral challenges and /or medical diagnosis in addition to what other students may be experiencing. Although as a professional I know what happens during the day with my students is not a personal attack on myself it leaves a mark on me. If they are melting down, angry and unable to self regulate I may be the target of objects or unkind words. It reminds me of the story that I frequently use with my students. I will bring in a fence board perfectly smooth, beautiful and unmarked. Then I bring out the hammer and we talk about how the words we use or our actions impact others. Each time I hit the board with the hammer it leaves a mark. We never know the sensitivity of others and what those words might be that leave a mark. So we should always choose to treat each other with kindness and respect.
This week my great uncle passed away. He was 97 years old and had lived a very full life. As I listen to the words that people were saying about him and how he impacted their life I began to wonder why do we only share this when someone is gone? Why do we choose to spread the gossip, mean, and nasty things about people? We see it daily on social media. From celebrities, to friends of friends and professionals in our community. Every mistake becomes a scandal and spreads like wild fire in seconds on the web. How different would the world be if we chose to let people know how they impacted your life or if we chose to use social media to spread those good things that happen on a daily basis?
As educators it’s a rare thing for us to know exactly how we impacted the lives of our students. We hope, at least I hope, that I’ve made a difference in the life of even one student in each class each year that I teach. They always say be careful what you ask for but in this case it wasn’t a bad thing. I ran into two former students who are siblings and I had the opportunity to teach both of them in grade 2. They were a few years apart and I taught the older brother first. As we were talking their dad was explaining some of the challenges they’ve had over the past few years in education. The older brother more so than the younger sister had experienced significant difficulties and was kicked out of two schools. I was shocked by this as it wasn’t the kid that I knew in grade 2. He was strong academically, was able to get along with others socially and was intrinsically driven. As I sat with him and talked a little bit about what was going on you could see the disappointment on his face. He told me “you were one of my favorite teachers and I know I’m not doing that good now”. I was faced with a moment of heartache sitting in the middle of a busy restaurant having a 15-year-old boy crying because he felt he disappointed his grade 2 teacher. I reminded him of all the wonderful things I see in him. The potential to do great things. The kindness and love that he shows for others and the support he still has from me. When I left him I made sure that he knew where to find me and that if there’s anything I could do to come and see me. He smiled and said thank you. There was no way I could know exactly how much what I thought of him meant to him.
I started thinking about every interaction we have with people. Whether it’s a hello on the street or honking crazily in the middle of traffic because someone is in a hurry or a “like” on social media. Each interaction is like a hammer on the wood and it leaves a mark. The depth of that mark and whether that mark changes the object to something more beautiful or something less appealing is up to us. I watched the Amanda Todd story and immediately became sad, angry and disappointed. This is a girl who made a mistake, who needed help in several different areas of her life and ultimately felt hopeless enough to take her own life. How many kids in our own class could potentially be in this situation? Our students need to not only be taught how to be good citizens in society but they need to be specifically taught how to be responsible online and just as importantly how to protect themselves and treat each other with respect online. Although Amanda Todd story was about sexploitation and harassment by someone she potential didn’t know there are instances that I know of where students have done this to other students in their school. As an educator and as it administrator what is our role and responsibility in a situation like this? What is the responsibility of the parents?
As my week came to a close I received a phone call from a former parent. (YES! an actual phone call not a text!) I had the opportunity to teach their youngest son and coach their oldest in the same year. It’s been at least two years and I have since moved schools. She called me to update me on how the kids were doing and talk about potentially inviting my husband and myself over for dinner one night. And then there was silence… The next thing I heard was the crack in her voice and I knew the tears were flowing down her face. As she began to speak and let me know that the real purpose of her call was to thank me for the impact I had on her youngest son. He has become her rock and her comfort. She didn’t speak a lot about academics at this point but she spoke about teaching her son to be a good person. Teaching him how to be respectful, kind, and not afraid to love.
I’m not sure that I can take credit for all of the things she gave me credit for but I do know that I impacted the life of that child. I am grateful that the parents took the time to let me know that it made a difference in his life and theirs.
Consider the ways you interact with students, parents and strangers both online and offline… what mark are you leaving on them?