I walked into a teacher’s classroom to check in because we hadn’t been able to meet for a few weeks. The paraprofessional in her room said she was meeting with the principal, so I said I’d come back at a later time. I went to my office to grab a quick bite of lunch before going to talk to the next teacher. A few minutes later, she walked through my door and had a seat. We ended up talking, but not about the work we had planned to talk about next time we met. Instead, we talked about the challenges she has been facing in her classroom and in life in general. I should rephrase that. She talked. I listened.
So many things are out of our control. At school, there are things like the support, or the lack there of, that students get in school and at home. The deadlines that loom over us. Progress reports are the most current one. The amount of face time we get with students. Tests and how to use the data that comes from the tests. In our personal lives, there are illnesses that befall us or our loved ones. We have struggles with our own families and friends. At times it is overwhelming and instead continuing to push through, there are time when we have to push the pause button.
Pause to think about how you are making a difference in the life of each child you have the privilege to work with. At the end of the day, the things that are imposed on teachers – grading, testing, test scores, lesson planning, curriculum, etc. – while important, are not what students will remember. What they will remember are the ways teachers showed them that they care. The time you took to have lunch with them. The game of kickball you played at recess. The way you took extra time to hear the story about their loose tooth.
I recently received a letter from a former student who is now in seventh grade. She shared some memories from when she was in my third grade classroom. She mentioned the Fiona doll I used to pull out when I was beginning to feel like an ogre. You know, those days when you feel like you’re being a big, old meany because you have to stop every ten minutes to remind the kids get it together? She remembered the giant card she and the other students made me for my birthday and the smile on my face when they gave it to me. She remembered celebrations we had together in our classroom. Pause. Think about the memories you are creating with and for your students.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I hope that all who read this will push the pause button and reflect on all you have to be grateful for in your life. Pause before you leave school for the holiday and look at your students. Really see them. Look into their faces and see the hope within. Listen to their words as they share their hopes and dreams, and at times, their fears. Pause to remember that you are making a difference for every child you come in contact with. My dad used to say, “You have to stop and smell the roses.” That is so true! As Thanksgiving approaches, pause to enjoy your students, your family, and your friends, and the time you have making memories together.
What are you grateful for? What special memories do you have of your students? I’d love to hear about them!