Making a Difference
Teachers touch the future and generally go into the profession because they want to make a difference. As a retired music teacher, I understand the pressures they face, even more so now than when I retired eight years ago. Testing, accountability, constant curriculum changes, low pay and long hours only begin to scratch the surface. Yet, in order to be a good teacher, one must be determined not to let those things distract from the ultimate goal.
With most schools starting this week, I wondered what advice veteran teachers might have for new teachers. Having the opportunity to talk with China Grove Middle School teachers, Teri and Adrian Mills, I wasn’t surprised their advice was to always communicate and make sure to care.
Teri elaborated, “Yours may be the only positive words a child hears in a day or a week. That doesn’t mean not to hold a student accountable, it just means to care in a way they know you care. I became a middle school teacher because I was one of those kids who needed a hug and was lucky I had a great teacher who helped me find myself. Now I want to do that for my students.”
Asking what the biggest change they’ve seen over the last ten years, Adrian said, “Attitude.” Then, pausing for a minute, he added, “It’s hard to put into words, but as a P.E. teacher, having students all three years, I know what they looked like in 6th gr. and what they look like in 8th. Some students look so different there’s no doubt in my mind something happened to change them. It’s as if the light leaves their eyes. Feeling like no one cares about them, they have a hard time caring about school or grades”
Agreeing, Teri said, “We see that more and more and for whatever reason it seems to be especially true with girls. Sometimes it’s because they have no one to parent them and no stability. Other times it’s because a tragic event happened in their lives. It’s really sad, but I find when I take the time to get to know them, building a relationship, they feel I care and will try harder.”
Even good teachers get burned out from time to time and that almost happened to Teri this past year. A difficult year on so many levels, she admits her light almost went out, but after rest, encouragement and inspiring workshops this summer, a faint flicker began to ignite, gradually bringing that light back full and bright.
Another contributing factor to that renewed spirit was seeing a past student from twelve years ago. Amazed the student still recognized her, Teri was touched when the student, smiling, said, “I always remember my good teachers.
While it’s true students need to know someone cares, it’s also true teachers do as well. This year, if you have children or grandchildren in school, go out of your way to show appreciation for their teachers. Sometimes just a note stuck in a bookbag to say, “thanks,” can boost their spirit, lifting a heavy load just a little. No matter how many times we say thank-you, it will never be enough, but it’s a start.
To read more about Teri and Adrian’s journey as teachers, check out their story in the Salisbury Post here.
Who was your favorite teacher? How did they make a difference in your life? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook, twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.