It’s been over 30 years and I still remember: the comment a teacher made about me to my mother at conferences. Encouragement that I would succeed: that I had it in me. Those words resonated during my first week of university when I wondered what I was doing there and if I was smart enough to be with my peers. His words echoed through my mind so that I did not quit on Day 1.
I still hear them.
A teacher has a unique position: one of extreme influence. Sometimes they can see the influence take shape in the growth of a student over the course of the year, but oftentimes, they never see the result of the investment they made into that life. Sometimes they don’t even realize it.
I was a quiet student. I did my work. I did well at school. I wasn’t trouble. I was a rule follower. But I have memories…memories that shaped me:
- A kindergarten teacher finding me in the hallway and guiding me into the safety of the classroom. I thought she was the most wonderful person I had ever met.
- Elementary teachers reading aloud to the class after lunch – developing imagination and love for reading. Showing how math is real life and how what we already learned links into what we are learning now. Revealing how the history of our state brings us things we see today such as French names for towns and bridges. Giving us Band-aids and tissues and a little extra space to gain composure before heading out to recess.
- Middle School teachers that actually liked middle-schoolers. They exist. They treated us like little adults, giving increased responsibility and holding us to higher standards while having a safety net for us to fall into. Sharing their experiences in school and giving hope that Middle school doesn’t last forever.
- High School teachers that speak life. They call out and affirm our gifts, they hold us accountable for our behavior and our words. They open our minds to things we didn’t know we didn’t know (whether we wanted to or not).
All of them: Giving words that resonate in our minds years later.
So to all of the teachers out there: don’t give up. Don’t give up on the kids or on yourself. You never know which of your words will echo through their minds when they are middle-aged. 😉