Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Just One Thing....

"Even an ordinary handwritten note on the right occasion is a work of art.  It says to the reader, 'You matter to me..."
Margaret Shepherd
The Art of the Handwritten Note

 The Te@chthought Blog Challenge question of the day:

Nov 11 What is the most important ‘lesson’ you want to teach your students?

 It may seem like I'm on a bit of a campaign to encourage written communication these days, and it's easy to feel that way when you spend an entire month focusing on gratitude.  By doing so, it forces you to slow down and reflect.  To muse, to inspire, to share.  When I take the time to focus, I see little things that I might otherwise have glossed over, and it often makes me sigh and tear up just a bit.

Sometimes I get notes.  Often they are handwritten, sometimes on post-its, and may be as simple as a "hello, I stopped to see you"  or as elaborate as an invitation to a wedding (that may or may not occur in ten years) to a certain NHL player of particular fascination.  I've gotten random emails, text messages, and facebook posts from former students recalling a particularly fun time, or thanking me for a skill that they dreaded while they were learning, but now are shining in college because of their mastery of that skill prior to graduation.  I've gotten notes of thanks, notes of apology, and anonymous notes.  Notes with graduation pictures, and Christmas cards, all of which tell me that someone is thinking of me at the time they sent that communication.  I value these personal connections, both as affirmation of what I am attempting to do in my classroom every day, as well as (gasp!) assessments or proof of growth in my students as they become adults and leave the hallowed halls of Donegal.

I truly want my students to learn one lesson from me.  They have the intrinsic ability to set a goal and follow it through.  Failure isn't a bad thing, it's a learning experience.  I believe in them, I value them, I support them.  I will do so for as long as I can.  I am invested in them -- sometimes more than they are in themselves.  I dream big things for them -- when they dare not to do so.  I trust in their abilities -- when they are second-guessing.  And most of all, they should never be afraid to ask for help.   The lesson?  I am their biggest cheerleader.

In the movie, City Slickers, Mitch learns that the secret to life is "that one thing." We all have it, even if we don't know what it is, or how to define it.  As an educator, my job is to help my students feel success.  To find that one thing that will bring satisfaction, joy, and pride.

It's not a tough job.  I work with the best and the brightest, and it seems to many outsiders that they have it all.  Don't think for a moment that academic success equals personal success.   The goals they have for themselves are often much more grand than any of us mere mortals will ever imagine. 

They just need to know that they're supported.  (And a handwritten note saying so every now and then goes miles and miles!)