Teach & Serve III, No. 41 – You Changed My Life
May 23, 2018
This is the final edition of Teach & Serve for the 2017-2018 school year. Teach & Serve IV will begin next fall on 8.8.18
At some point in the journey of their lives your former students recognize what happened and many seek out past instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”
Late May in schools is rife with many emotions. Teachers and administrators are ready to bid the year farewell and to get to summer vacation. Late 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 materials 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 do not 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.
Multiple summers down the road, when water has passed under bridges and calendar pages have turned, many former students realize they forgot something back in the spring months of their school days. At some point in the journey of their lives your former students recognize what happened and many seek out past instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”
It is not entirely fair to expect students living in these late 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 have not lived enough life and that is okay. As educators, we know that our students are not finished products. They have more to learn.
And so do we because, in the late May morass, we are just as likely to forget to acknowledge to ourselves that we have, in fact, changed lives.
Working in schools is not like painting a wall. Teachers do not get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant. Teachers do not get to see the results of the hours of preparation and the early mornings and the late nights. Teachers do not know the seeds they are planting as they are dropping them in fertile ground. Teachers do not always 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 late 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 remind you about something that is profound in our work:
You have changed lives.
Treasure giving that gift, even if those who receive it are not always able to acknowledge that they have.