This may turn into a long post, but bear with me. I have to share what’s on my heart this week. I am still in early stages of implementing my new writing goals in my classroom, but I felt it was important to take a break from talking about writing to share these things.

Sometimes, as teachers, we have to celebrate the small things in our classroom. Our job is hard! So when something comes along worth celebrating, I try to relish in the moment. Kids in high school are a different breed, y’all. I don’t see a lot of things my cohorts see. I don’t deal with runny noses or accidents, or really even with many behavior issues. What I do deal with is a lot different. Students who are on the brink of dropping out. Students who are on probation. Students who are living on their own already because of less-than-stellar home lives. In fact, just a few months after I started teaching high school, a student brought me a drop out form to sign. This affected me way more than I ever thought it would. I suppose, in my mind, when a student dropped out, they’d just be there one day and gone the next. I didn’t know I would actually have to have a conversation with the student before they left.

Now, I don’t want to make it seem like all of my students are on a weary path. In fact the overwhelming majority are extremely bright, enthusiastic, college or career bound kids that come in daily, work hard, and learn. But again, it’s those ones that you just know are struggling, with life, school, or whatever else, that seem to tug on your heart-strings.

One is a student who is that kid. You know, the one you see coming and kind of want to hide. He would much rather be at home, at work, absolutely anywhere but your classroom. He misses a lot of school and, when he does come, he is often late. He misses work but doesn’t mind. “That’s fine I’ll take a zero.” He’s typically loud and loves, unfortunately, any form of attention available from his peers. He is very well liked by his peers, so I’m not sure why he still feels the need to seek out that attention, but that’s another mystery for another day.

I walked into the office upon arriving to school one morning. Went to clock in and check my mail, and saw, what I thought I recognized as this student sitting in the back conference room, alone. I asked our secretary if that was him and she said yes, that he was making up time. I’m not sure what it was but I decided to go say hi. “Good morning! Glad to see you here!” He said “good morning” back and I went upstairs and got ready for my classes. When his period rolled around he came straggling in. We were doing a lab that day. Labs are particularly hard on the teacher, and particularly hard on the late-2nd-trimester-pregnant teacher especially, but are invaluable for the kids. We were looking at onion cells and the students were scraping their own mouths to look at their cheek cells. I demonstrated how to prepare these slides and set the kids to work.

After everyone seemed to be on their way, I went back to my desk to grab a drink, put my flavor enhancer in my water and of course made a mess. (White shirt, purple water dye, lab gloves on, spillage… oh yeah). He sees me struggling and comes and takes the water out of my hands, takes it to the sink, washes it, dries it, and hands it back to me. One of those times where you just stand there thinking “Ummm… what is going on?” I said “Thanks friend!” and he continued looking at his cells.We wrapped up the lab and started cleaning up. I had the samples I had prepared plus some other glassware that needed cleaning and headed over to the sink to wash. He again takes this out of my hands and proceeds to wash it all himself. By this point, I’m glancing around waiting on a hidden camera to show up.

The bell rings and the kids start to filter out, and he’s kind of lagging behind the crowd, eyes glued to his phone. As he approaches where I am, he looks up and says, “What’d you mean by that this morning?” I think for a second and said “What do you mean?” He says, “Why’d you say you were happy I was here?” I just smiled and said, “Because I am! I was glad to see you!” He just kind of looked at me and nodded and walked out. He came in the next day and, though we were not doing lab work, he worked equally as hard on what we had to do that day.

As teachers, we never know when a smile, comment, or a “good morning” is going to be exactly what a kid needs that day or week or in their life in general. I’m not sure what made me stop and talk to him that morning but I sure am glad I did.

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5 thoughts on “A Little Goes a Long Way

  1. Hannah, thanks so much for sharing your story. Our students need to hear us say those very words, “I’m glad to see you here.” It really does touch their lives even starting in Kindergarten. It is a great motivational tool. I say it to my students every day because we have some who don’t come to school because their parents or care giver couldn’t or wouldn’t get up. We can’t teach them to write or even find out what type of writer’s they are Igor can be if they don’t show up..

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  2. I my self am struggling with a student that does not want to be at school. It becomes apparent in upper elementary and middle school which kids really want to be there and which kids would rather be any where else in the world. As a teacher of 5th and 6th graders, I don´t have to worry about students dropping out, but I know if they don´t want to be there they are not learning everything they can. I try daily to be a positive impact on all of my students. I want them to know that there are people in this world that want the best for them, there are people that care. Unfortunately, I feel I am not always successful at reaching every student. It is a real blessing that your simple words and a few seconds of your time were able to help a child realize his presence matter. I pray that he continues to see you value him and will use this knowledge to make a better future for himself.

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  3. With a teary eye, I want to comment on your post. Teaching is SO much more than just showing up and teaching a lesson. Teaching is connecting with young people. It’s true many people will forget the words you said but they WILL NOT forget the way you made them feel. Thank you for listening to that little nudge that said “Go speak to that kid”. Sometimes the difference in a kid dropping out of high school or staying in is a conversation by a coach or teacher. High school kids what to fit in somewhere and they want to belong! 🙂

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  4. Hannah I honestly couldn’t make it through your post with dry eyes. I say over and over and over again that my place is not in a middle or high school classroom, but my heart is absolutely with those kids. In the last few years of our lives Mitchell and I have dedicated our time, hearts, and really our lives to the youth in this county and I will tell you their stories are not pretty. I am always heartbroken to see kids with a poor out look on their future. We have no idea what kids, in high school or other wise, are facing that day. Your post is proof of what a difference teachers, role models and just adults that care make in their lives. I had a student in the youth group that I really connected to from the beginning and his story was much like this. He was late to school or just wouldn’t come and just had such low self-esteem. He said this to me one day and I will never forget his words: “it is so nice to have someone be there for me and love me like you and Mitchell are. My parents love me, but they love me with conditions. If I mow the grass they love me, or if I run them to the store they love me, but you all love me no matter what I do. You all even love me when I screw up, can I call you mom?”. We hadn’t done anything spectacular in our minds but in his it meant the world. That student will never forget the day you cared that he was at school. He will remember your words and will cherish them. As teachers we don’t usually get thank yous or rewards, but moments like this are worth more than a thank you or a reward of any type. It is refreshing to read stories just like this. These are moments that make our teaching careers worth their weight in gold.

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  5. I know this post wasn’t about “writing” instruction (which is fine!), but I’d like to argue that by creating a blog post about this small moment, you are actively modeling the POWER that teacher-writers have to advocate for their daily work with children/youth. Certainly this moment was powerful to you as you experienced it in real time, but by writing it down you have created a reflective opportunity for ALL OF US to be reminded of why we are teachers. My guess is that your small moment story brings about a flood of memories for ANY teacher that reads your post, demonstrating that writing is a powerful tool for personal as well as collective reflection. Thank you for inviting each of us into one of these small moments in our own lives where our impact–however seemingly small–on another person was made clear.

    Perhaps cliche, but your small moments reminds me of this quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure” (Williamson). Your story reminds us that in each moment in our classrooms/schools we are all “powerful beyond measure,” even when it so often feels like we up against a mountain.

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