Teach & Serve
No. 40 * May 18, 2016
Related Content from And There Came A Day:
- Teach & Serve No. 39 – I Love Trouble
- Teach & Serve No. 38 – May the Fourth and Other Teachings from a Galaxy Far, Far Away
- Teach & Serve No. 37 – Cool It
- Teach & Serve No. 36 – Do I Engage the Mission Every Day?
You Changed My Life
Working in schools isn’t like painting a wall. Teachers don’t get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant.
Mid-May in schools is rife with many emotions. Teachers and administrators are ready to bid the year farewell and to get to summer vacation. Mid-May brings with it the promise that an opportunity for rest and recharging is not far away. Certainly there are some obstacles yet to clear what with exams or grading final projects, cleaning out of classrooms and turning in of reports, packing up material and checking out of buildings. Though the end is nigh, there are still things to do.
Our students have things to do, too and they normally don’t accomplish one of the most critical tasks of the end of the school year. With varying degrees of seriousness and success, they approach their final projects and tests. They clean out their lockers. They sign their yearbooks and they say their goodbyes. But they typically leave out something very important.
Many summers down the road, water passed under bridges, calendar pages turned, former students realize they forgot something back in the spring months of their school days. At some point in the journey of their lives they recognize what happened and some seek out former instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”
It’s not entirely fair to expect students living in these mid-May moments to understand what has occurred in their lives. Some do. Some know the debts of gratitude they owe. Some are able to articulate this to their teachers. But the vast majority have not the breadth of knowledge, the introspection or the reflective capacity to get it. They haven’t lived enough life and that’s okay. As educators, we know that our students are not finished products. They have more to learn.
And so do we because, in the mid-May morass, we are just as likely to forget to acknowledge to ourselves that we have, in fact, changed lives.
Working in schools isn’t like painting a wall. Teachers don’t get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant. Teachers don’t get to see the results of the hours of preparation and the early mornings and the late nights. Teachers don’t know the seeds they are planting as they are dropping them in fertile ground. Teachers don’t know the affect they have until long after they have had it.
At this moment, I know full well that many of your students are not paying attention to you in class, are pushing every button you have, are just as ready to be away from you as you are from them. I know that many of us are just as ready for summer as our charges are. I know that there is much to accomplish and much to do. I know this. But I know something else, too. In mid-May teachers need this critical perspective and I would like to provide it.
Please allow me to remind all the teachers and coaches and administrators and educational professionals: you have changed lives these last nine months. Please allow me to say something about this profound work:
You have changed lives.
Treasure giving that gift, even if those who receive it are not always able to acknowledge that they have.