Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. The PTO at my school goes all out every year. We receive an invitation the week before that tells us what special treats we can look forward to each day. One day is breakfast, another lunch, a third desserts and so on. This year was a VIP theme complete with a red carpet entrance into the building and a raffle drawing for a prize each day. In short, we were treated so kindly and felt so appreciated.
The pampering was wonderful, but my favorite part about this week is hearing from students and parents who take the time to write about how the little things we do make a difference in their lives. This year I enjoyed hearing that my smile brightens a day for a student and she looks forward to seeing me. A parent shared that the pictures and videos I send after every class period really help spark communication at home.
This week always prompts me to think about whether, if I was just starting out my career today, I would still choose this job knowing everything I know now. And the answer after 25 years is still YES! So much has changed in this profession, for better and for worse, but working with kids is still the place I want to be. These years are so critical for children and their development. How they feel about themselves now will travel with them for the rest of their lives and determine how they relate to others, handle challenges, and care for themselves. Teaching goes way beyond academics, caring for the whole child…social, emotional, physical, and behavioral.
Two stories stand out in my mind. One is that every year without fail, I receive a Christmas card from a student I had in 1993. He was 7 years old. I was 24. He has shared his high school and college graduations, his fiance turned wife, and eventually a few children. He always makes a point of saying I was his favorite teacher. Maybe he sends these to all his teachers, but I marvel that after 16 more years of schooling, he still thinks of me. The second story happened just a few weeks ago. I was at my local gym and noticed a young girl who kept looking over at me. I smiled at her each time, but did not know her. Finally, she approached me and asked if I had taught 3rd grade. When I said yes, she said, “I knew it was you! I recognized your smile!” I was her teacher 11 years ago when she was just 8. Before me stood a young woman. When she said her name, I regaled her with stories I remembered about her. She teared up. She told me her college roommate is her best friend from our class. She told me that I got her through her roughest classes in high school and encouraged her to take on a double major in college. I asked her how that was possible when I haven’t seen her all this time. She said, “Because you believed in me and made me think I could do anything.” Now it was my turn to tear up.
In first grade, Mrs. Ross asked us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. My mom saved that piece of writing and I share it at Back to School Night every year. It says, “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher so little children will be smart.” I’ve expanded and refined my WHY since then, but I haven’t changed my mind about what I want to be when I grow up.
Photo: This photo of me was taken in the Fall of 1977 when I was in 3rd grade, wearing an outfit that was my pride and joy. Made entirely by my mom, it was a purple corduroy jumper with a floral pocket square that matched the blouse underneath. I chose it precisely for picture day that year and picked out the ribbons for my pony tails from my mom’s sewing box. Third grade with Mrs. Krystow was a happy time for me. I loved school, loved my friends, loved taking the bus that year, and loved all my pets. Life was good!
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