Photo Credit: http://epitec.com/thankfulness/
With less than seven weeks before the long awaited summer vacation my ambition is beginning to wane. I look at the calendar of end-of-year testing and I cannot shake the daunting feeling that my valuable instructional time as a teacher is coming to a close. Before long, testing mode will begin and I’m struggling with finding time to fit in all of the lessons yet to be done. Additionally, the beautiful sunshine and temperatures outside make it really hard to stay motivated. But over the past few days God has thrown me a reminder that I am currently doing what I’m supposed to do and that I’m where I am supposed to be.
Over the weekend while enjoying my family date for the week (more on this in an upcoming post) I ran into a current student and her mother. We were at a mall, and my daughter was playing in every parent’s worst nightmare, the germ-infested play area. From a seat on the perimeter of the playground I caught a glimpse of this student. Let’s be real for a second- I teach ninth grade students. More often than not when I see a student in public they tend to avoid eye contact and act as though I don’t exist. Most of the time that doesn’t bother me one bit, but this student’s reaction was so encouraging. I saw her motion to her mother in my direction and I read her lips as she said, “There’s Mrs. Sisley.”
Her mother could have nodded and continued her parade from store to store. She was a busy shopper with an armful of bags toting newly purchased goods. But her mother’s reaction was more surprising than her daughter’s. The woman left her b-line to the next shop and came right up to the play area. At first, I was astounded to see her approaching me, but when her arms went out to embrace me I was completely taken aback.
I maybe should have explained that a few months back this particular student had struggled with a personal battle and as a member of the FCA which I advise she came to me in need of some guidance. I talked with her as much as I could about what was going on and then pointed her to some of the student leaders of FCA to help her out on a deeper level than I really could as a teacher. I’ve prayed for her often and she updates me on the situation as well. She is a student I have grown close to and whom I enjoy very much. She has grown so much this year and it is a blessing as a teacher to see students grow both in and out of the classroom as I have witnessed with this particular student.
Anyway, the mother hugged me right in the middle of the mall. Yes, I’m sure it caused a little bit of a scene, but it touched me nonetheless. As she was hugging me she said, “You will never know how much you mean to me and my family.” We both teared up. I realized then that my impact is so much bigger than I thought. I had never met this woman, but my influence had reached her. I am so thankful for this encouraging reminder that God has placed me in a position to directly influence my community. It isn’t just the students I’m impacting…it is whole families and groups of people. This was such a humbling experience as well. God is taking me (someone who has my own struggles) and is using me despite my struggles to positively infect my world.
This experience got me thinking. I’m no different than any other teacher. All of us works hard to be positive role models and change the world (or at the very least change our students). Sometimes this can be a thankless job. Luckily, very few of us are into teaching for recognition. It’s not necessarily that students take us for granted, but it ends up that students tend not to be as expressive as they should. They may talk about their favorite teachers at home or with their friends, but rarely do they show their appreciation directly to their teachers. So, today I asked my English students to write 1-3 paragraphs naming and describing a teacher who made a difference in their lives. After I checked their work they were to give their writing to the teacher whom they chose as their subject. My thinking is that sometimes it is nice to get that letter of gratitude or thankfulness.
In closing, I want to encourage you, readers, to remember that your influence reaches far beyond what is seen. Sometimes people spread their kind words and thoughts about you and it never returns. Just because the “thanks” isn’t heard doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. I also encourage you to take some time to thank someone that has had a big influence in your life.