A couple weeks ago, I learned I was chosen to be Teacher of the Year for Cassia County School District. So far, it has been a humbling experience with many words of encouragement and applause-- teach in such a supportive community.
Reflecting on what to say, I considered those moments in school that have stayed with me. Teaching, I have daily opportunities for this I realized we all affect those we meet in the smallest ways—whether we realize it or not.
In my classroom, to show encouragement, I sometimes attach these small “kudos” cards to student work. Last year I stapled one to troubled student’s paper. It said, “I believe in you!” On the back, I wrote a quick note of appreciation for his hard work. That student later thanked me, saying he needed those words of encouragement that day. After a rough morning at home, he wondered why he even tries, feeling so much a failure. But he’s not. A tiny effort on my part, this action boosted him just when he needed it. Small things matter. Whether we mean to or not--we put our mark on every student we teach.
If I am a good teacher at all, I was led here, hoisted here, by those who taught me throughout my school years. I learned plenty in their classes, but it was how they made me feel last lasted.
When I was eight and an aspiring writer (I thought), I wrote a story about my cat one night. I couldn’t wait to share it with my second grade teacher. Standing in the playground during recess duty eating a sandwich in one hand, she read (what I’m sure was terrible) my story in the other. She didn’t have to, being already so busy, but she took the time, an effect that clearly lasted. It’s a reminder to me to take time for students no matter what—to go the extra mile. I can tell similar stories of the time and dedication my high school teachers had with me as well, and I know they didn’t realize they were doing it at the time, but I did. These serve as a reminder that small connections we as teachers make matter. For me, their actions and small connections they made with me, helped pave my decision to become a teacher myself, encouraged me to pay it forward, and I am so grateful. Every teacher has left an imprint on my heart and mind, and these imprints play a daily part of how I strive to be for my own students. I am not a perfect human or teacher, but my experiences with my teachers of the past still influence me today. Talk about powerful.
It’s said a lot: Teachers make a difference. But it’s true. Our time with these kids play a role in their futures beyond the academics. Teachers and parents and friends—we all have an opportunity to have a positive influence on them and to set an example for them. What we do and say lasts. Helping our students learn and grow is why we are in school, but remember we also influence in other ways, and our students take those experiences with them, too, as they move forward on their own path towards the future. Who knows what seeds we will plant this year in our kids’ lives. I’m excited to watch and see. Make those connections take time with your kids and students. It means something--and it’s good!
Enjoy the year and enjoy your kids. Connect and build those lasting relationships.