Thursday, November 03, 2011

It takes so little

There's a teacher I admire.  She's been teaching a long time, and is close to retirement, yet she's continually learning and trying new things.  And she has a love and passion for teaching kids.

I got to talk to her at length yesterday, after a district meeting.  As GT teachers, we meet once a month to share ideas, make sure we're all on the same page, and to plan for our summer field trip with our students. Yesterday, the meeting was in my class.  She stayed after, talking about what she was doing in her class, and I always come away with new ideas after talking to her.

But she shared a little more with me yesterday.  She shared her heart.  We were talking about difficult students we've had, and she recently had a moment with one of those students that we teachers only dream about.  Her "difficult" student just got accepted to a University, with scholarships to boot.  She's going to be a missions director.

This student hadn't forgotten my friend, though.  My friend worked with her since kinder, and took time to do little things outside the realm of normal teaching with her.  She walked her from her bus to her class.  She colored with her.  She listened and cared when other teachers didn't.  This teacher saw something in this little girl that no one else did.

So the now-grown-up little girl took my friend to lunch recently.  During the course of the lunch, the "girl" stopped and said, "There's something I need to say to you."  Of course my friend stopped and listened.  "If our paths had never crossed," the girl said, "You would not have changed.  You would be the exact person I'm sitting across today.  I know that.  But..." she continued, "if our paths had never crossed, I would definitely not be the same person sitting across from you today."

Tears.  Lots of them.  And not just between the girl and my friend, but between my friend and me now.

"How many teachers go through their career never really knowing if they made a difference?  You now know!"  I said.  You know what she said to me?  She said, "But that's not what made me cry then or now.  What makes me cry is the fact that it took so little to change the course of her life."

Humble pie.  As always, I took that conversation and made it about our profession, about success as a teacher, about proof that she made a difference.  She on the other hand, saw the real issue at hand.  "How many," she said, "get passed over, without ever having a lifeline.  She was a troubled little girl that didn't fit into our neat little boxes.  How many just get passed over?  It really takes so little."

It was a great question.  One of those life lesson questions that motivates us to do better.  It's the reminder of why we get into teaching.  It's not just about good lessons, great ideas, learning and great questions.  It's about people.  Little people who grow up and become big people.  And those big people can make a difference in this world, good or bad.

Sometimes all they need is a walk.  Or a coloring buddy.

Or someone just to see them.  It makes a difference.

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