Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Personal Anecdote

I don't often do this ... I am a public "official" but a relatively private person. I'm sharing one of those times when my personal story relates to and helps define my philosophical foundations about education and learning. I suppose I could title this as "the impact of a teacher" ... it is not so much about me and a former student as it is about the thousands of other teachers - my peers and colleagues, who daily impact children forever.

A personal story ..... so many teachers around the country and world will be able to relate to this short but personally powerful story about the impact we teachers have on the students we serve.

Eighteen years ago in Bensenville, Illinois, I was an 8th grade teacher at Blackhawk Middle School. I taught social studies (U.S. History, Advisory, an elective course called You and The Law, and Reading). 

Last week I came home and my wife told me that I had a pretty incredible voice mail message on the phone, a former student from eighteen years ago, was calling to share the impact that I had on his life.

I share this story - not to be a braggart - but to share how my work as a teacher has shaped and impacted my work as a public school administrator. We teachers have an impact and a legacy that we may or may not know about. Often we teachers never know that our work made or makes a tangible difference in a child's life, often we teachers never hear how our lesson plans and carefully crafted assessments matter to our students. Often we teachers toil for many, many years and only hope that we have made a difference! 

Phone calls like the one I just received are so powerfully rewarding and special that they make it all worth the effort! I believe that ALL children can learn - I have always believed this. I believe that all children have talents and it is our job as educators to help them find their talents.

Many years ago in an 8th grade reading class in Bensenville, Illinois, introducing the author Gary Soto to reluctant readers, sharing S.E. Hinton with reluctant readers, sharing sports biographies, etc. apparently has had a profoundly positive effect and impact on at least one of my many amazing students. 

As Justin (my 31 year old former student) and I were catching up, hearing about his work, his family, etc., he recounted memories of a somewhat troubled youth where some classmates and peers did not make it ... some are not enjoying freedom or valuable life experiences. He, though, thanks to his love for reading, and his intelligence and talent for making positive choices along the way, has made it - and is making a positive impact as a father, husband, and small business owner.

Justin remembers the books I shared with him and the talks we had about life and choices and expectations. I had high expectations for him and all of my students - he lived up to and exceeded those expectations. He shares with great clarity the impact that his reading and social studies teacher has had on his life and he called to say Thank You.

I'm humbled by his call. I'm honored by his call.

We teachers work in an environment that few others truly understand. 

Thank you Justin for your call.

Thank you to all teachers and the impactful work that they do each and every day!

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