Yesterday was the last day of school. After about 360 classroom guidance lessons this year, I wondered: did it make a difference? Teachers always say “if I can make a difference in just one child’s life, then it was worth it.” Well, yesterday I got my answer.
I was sitting at my desk, doing some last minute cleaning up, when a parent came to the door. She said, “Mrs. Lee, I am Reed’s mom, and I just wanted to thank you.” As she handed me a single long stemmed red rose she said, “Reed talks about you all the time and tells me the things he’s learned from you. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate what you do.” Wow! How unexpected! What a nice mom! And Reed, he never seemed to listen to any of my lessons! Who knew? He really was getting it!!!
Of course, I know that I do make a difference. In many children’s lives. Character Education is what I teach. It’s powerful, it’s real, kids can relate to it. It’s not academic, so every child can be successful. Learning about character doesn’t take rocket surgery (rocket science + brain surgery). It just takes a child listening, and practicing, and wanting someone to tell them how to live a better life.
Last week, our school had an Character Awards program. All the kids who had received Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness and Caring awards throughout the year were recognized. Their names were called (two from each class). They stood up and received cheers from their classmates, teachers, and parents. Those kids were obviously kids who had been listening to their teachers, their parents, and had learned those character attributes. Maybe some had learned from me. It’s hard to know.
When it came time to announce the winners of the Citizen of the Year Awards, the auditorium got silent! Parents of the winners had been invited, but – as far as I know – the winners did not know they were to receive this prestigious award. After a…drum roll (clapping legs) please….each child’s name was called. One winner from each class came on stage, received a certificate and a “citizenship necklace”. Then the crowd went wild. Classmates and parents whooped and hollered! It was a time to reward those students who had truly shown that they had adopted the Six Pillars of Character into their lives! I felt so proud – proud of the students and proud of what they had learned from me.
Awards programs are emotional. Some children get upset because they didn’t get an award. Others are upset because their friend didn’t get one. But it’s a lesson for all. Keep trying to do your best. Even if you don’t get acknowledged, the pride is in yourself. This is a lesson for me, too. Even if the children don’t acknowledge that they have learned something from my lessons, I know in my heart that I did my best. Even if parents don’t thank us, we know that teachers matter.
In my students’ final evaluations, I can take pride in what they wrote:
“I’ve learned that BULLYING IS NOT COOL!” “I’ve learned about being in somebody else’s shoes.” “Sticks and stones may brake my bones, but words CAN HURT.”"I can accomplish so much more by being kind to others.” “It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your eyes, bullying is mean.” “It doesn’t matter if you win,everybody is a winner.” “You learned us a lot of things this year, but I can’t write them down because it was a whole bunch of stuff.” “If you are being bullied, stand up and yell as loud as you can STOP LEAVE ME ALONE.” “To stand up for your friends.” “Jobs make a better life.” “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” “No throwing food, no spitballs.” “To be a kid for character.” “Have sympathy for others.” “If they bully you or say something bad to you, just back away from them and ignore them.” “Don’t worry and be happy everyday so your tummy won’t hurt.” “Just believe in yourself and others.”
These are words of wisdom. These are words of learning. These are words of third graders. These are words that show that I did make a difference. As the old saying goes, “If I can make a difference in the life just one child, then it was worth it.” This is what teachers do everyday. They make a difference. THANK YOU TEACHERS!
This is my rant today.