This month, the #CompelledTribe is blogging about times we were contacted by a former student, telling us what an impact we had on their lives. Those messages are the best, they feel like a culmination of all of our work. I have been contacted by former students over the years, and their messages all seem to have the same theme. They feel like I saw something in them that others rarely did, that I dug deep to figure out what makes them tick and what their strengths are. The story I am going to tell you in this post is not about one of them, however. It is about one of my greatest teachers, my son.
One sunny afternoon, I was bouncing through my day, lost in my thoughts, and I happen to look out the window of the music classroom I was visiting. What I saw when I looked out into the courtyard is still crystal-clear in my mind, even all these years later.
I am slow by nature, but in that moment, I reacted faster than lightening. Busting out the door, I ran to the student–a preschooler who was pulling down his pants, about to expose himself to students and staff members as he “went potty” on the tree in front of him. I got to him just in the nick of time.
That little boy happened to be my son.
I could recount many stories like this one, for my son spent lots of time “in trouble” when he was in lower elementary. Now, he is approaching the last couple years of high school, and I cannot help but reflect on how much he taught me over the years…both professionally and personally.
He taught me that some students are hard to get to know, and are hard to like, yet they end up being some of the most rewarding students to work with once you work past the prickly exterior and find their strengths.
He taught me that some students say one thing yet they mean another, and that it is not because they are trying to be deceptive. Some simply have difficulty putting their thoughts into words or actions. They laugh when most of us would cry. They behave in disrespectful ways when they really want us to love them. They say they are bored when they are actually confused. We cannot assume what is happening on the inside of a child’s heart and head by observing their behavior, they often need us to dig deeper.
When I hear educators talking about “naughty” children, I hear them talking about my son. It breaks my heart. Children who need our love the most are sometimes the most difficult to love. The thing I most want to hear from my son’s teachers is that they see his strengths and care about him.
There were times when I felt like a failure as a parent. When I hear educators talking about “bad” parents, I hear them talking about me. Most parents I have met are trying their very best for their children with the information and resources they have. They need our partnership, appreciation, and loving honesty. Not our judgement.
I am challenged to remember that every one of our students is somebody’s baby. Most of our parents are vulnerable. Just like our students, parents need our caring support and they look to us as the experts.
My son approved almost everything I wrote in this post, except he didn’t like the part where I said I have felt like a failure. He said he would never see me as a failure. Man I love that kid.
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.”
— Horace Mann