Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thank you!

A week ago today I started something that turned into quite an interesting “experiment” of sorts. I prefer not to use the term “experiment” since it was not begun for exploration purposes and I feel such terminology belittles the true purpose behind it; however, the responses I received in return did intrigue me and left me hypothesizing possible conclusions. Allow me to explain what happened…

Thursday evening I found myself reading some more of the book I’m currently reading: The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck, M.D. It’s a slightly older text (copyright 1978), but it is still a well-known and highly read “self-help” type book. One of my supervisors from the past had mentioned how she read the book during her graduate studies and it has forever changed her life. I’ll admit, it is a good book and it was the first line of the whole book that drew me in, “Life is difficult.” Short, simple, and yet so true. So on Thursday evening as I was reading another section of the text I found myself thinking about a close friend of mine and it got me to thinking about how important she was to me and how grateful I was for her friendship. I was moved to let her know that at that very moment, so I jumped up from my chair, went to the computer and simple emailed her with “thank you!” Nothing more, nothing less. No explanation, merely a sign of appreciation. Sure, at the moment I was thankful for something that the book was talking about that led me to thinking about her, but in the matter of time it took me to get to the computer, bring up my email, type that short big of text in the email and put her email address in, my mind had thought of many, many more reasons for which I was thankful for her in my life—things she had done for me, the type of person/friend she was for me, etc. So I felt that writing out “thank you for _______” would limit my thanks, so instead I left it open-ended.

I sent that first email at 8 PM. It was around 9:30 PM that I found myself thinking about the email, and reading more into the book that I thought, “I have so many other people I’m grateful for, why not email a couple more people.” As I got to my to my email to begin thanking some more people I found a response email from my original “thank you” email. My friend had responded back with “HA. I don’t know what for, but your welcome.” Just reading it was intriguing to me. I found it interesting to see how someone would respond to a “thank you” that they were uncertain for what the appreciation was being expressed for.

As I became fascinated by the thoughts of how people might respond to a “thank you” that they felt uncertain for it’s merit, I realized why stop at thanking 5 or 10 close friends? Why not thank as many as I can this evening? I mean I am thankful for basically each and every person listed in my email address book for one reason or another, so why not thank them.

I think it is important to note that during these thoughts I was fully aware of the fact that this was an idea with a basis and meaningful foundation of gratitude. Sure, I was looking forward to seeing how one might respond to a seemingly random “thank you” but I made sure to not lose my focus during all the emailing.

So, at 9:30 PM I began going person by person through my email address book and sending personal emails to almost everyone in my address book. The body of the email included a two-word phrase: “thank you!” BUT the thoughts behind the thanks were specific. For each person I inputted into an email, I would take the time to thing of what I was thanking them personally for.

I found myself emailing people I talk to on a daily basis and others that I haven’t talked to in months, if not years. For some people, my purpose behind the thanks came to mind immediately, for others who I might have had limited contact with recently, I might have had to take the time it took to type out the “thank you” before my purpose of appreciation came to mind, but I did not allow myself to hit “send” without having a thankful thought in mind. With some people, I had so many thoughts of “thanks” that I had accidentally hit “send” before the computer even got the “thank you!” pasted into the body…HA! With those people, they accidentally got two emails from me: 1) the first being blank in the body, and 2) the second having the “thank you”. Luckily I only did this twice…I got better at making sure the text had completely pasted into the body before I hit “send”…HA!

So within a matter of time I had gone through my email address book and had sent off 111 personal “thank you” emails. It was a good feeling knowing I’d shared my appreciation with some of the people who had/have impacted my life.

It didn’t take long for the curiosity of mankind to begin emailing me back. Matter of fact, some of the first responses came in while I was still emailing others. Below I have included the responses I have gotten to this point. I have left off names of individuals, but I have placed a “F” or “M” before each response in order to identify the individual’s gender. [Note: I always feel demographics, such as gender, are interesting to consider when looking at information and making hypotheses]. I’ve divided the responses up by the days I received them, so you can see how quickly people might have found themselves curious about the thanks and wanted to address it.

(f) HA. I don't know what for, but your welcome.
(f) huh?
(m) For what?
(f) no, thank you!
(f) For What?
(m) you're welcome!!
(m) You're welcome...but for what? :)
(f) For what?
(f) your welcome!! (but I don't know what for) =) So thank YOU!!

(f) thank you for what? oh, and hi missouri! :-) Remember that one time that you were amazing and picked me up from the airport and then (wonders to be told) dropped me off at the Greyhound station. hee hee i love you!
(f) For what?
(f) For what?
(f) huh? what for?
(f) you are welcome....but ummm what did I do?
(f) Not real sure why you are thanking me.. lol.. but whatever it was for .. ok
(m) i'm confused, for what sug?
(f) Hey Girl! How are you?? I'm about to leave for Florida, but I hope you're doing well. Just wondering about the thank you email. Not sure what I did but, you're welcome :)
(f) You're welcome! What did I do???? :)
(f) huh????
(f) -----------
(m) What did I do that warrents a thank you?
(f) um, you're welcome. but what am i being thanked for?
(f) what was this thank you for?
(f) Hi Kim! How are you doing? Great to hear from you. not sure the merit of "thank you" just wondering. God Bless
(f) For what?
(f) why did you send me an e-mail saying "thank you?"

(f) For what???!?!?!

(f) Sure! Did I do something?

I find it interesting to look at the comments and think about how so many people responded with “for what” or “huh.” Could this mean that person feels as if they did nothing to warrant a sense of appreciation? Or could that person be an individual that likes details and specifics and merely accepting the thanks is enough for them, because they feel they need to know the act/behavior that is worthy of the thanks—in efforts to reinforce such an act/behavior.

What about those the “you’re welcome” responses? Is that a sign of confidence? Could it be someone trying to add humor to a situation that they feel could be too sentimental? Or where they merely taught as a child to always follow “thank you” with “you’re welcome” in order to have proper manners?

Then there's the people that responded back by thanking me. Could it be that these people had a sense of understanding in what I was doing and they wanted to thank me as well for something? Could it be that these people felt it "necessary" to thank me (since I'd just thanked them) out of a sense of reciprocity? Could it be that these people feel as if they can't accept a thanks, so they return it instead (i.e. like those who feel they can't accept love for their selves, but rather they will give it toward others)?

Of course, we really can’t draw any conclusions about specific people based on the responses, but it is interesting to see how when a large number of people are all faced with identical situations, such as a “random” email saying nothing more than “thank you” they tend to respond in similar manners.

I purposely left one response comment out from above in the listed comments. It is where the (f) -----------" is placed. That comment was one that cracked me up! I literally was laughing out loud when I read it. This friend knows me ALL too well apparently (and the funny part is that I haven’t seen this person in about 6 years, and only recently re-established communication with her). Here is her response to my “thank you”:

(f) Well, I see you finally got the million dollar check I sent you for Christmas! So, is this another one of your 'experments"? See how people respond and then psychoanalyze them??? You know, as I was driving to work today I was thinking about our freshman year (doesn't that seem like FOREVER ago) and just had to laugh at all the fun we had. Remember our "dance" party that we taped in secret??? That was fun stuff................anyways--THANK YOU! Sometime soon I am going to sit down and type you an email because we need to stay in touch. Love you girl!

HA HA HA HA! Funny how she knows me so well!

I would like to conclude with two things…

1) For the many of you who responded with “for what” or “huh” or any other questioning nature of a response, I do not mind telling you (or anyone else that I emailed and thanked, for that matter) what my thoughts of thanks for you were when I was emailing you originally. If you want to hear them, feel free to contact me from this point on and ask and I’ll let you know.

2) Finally, I have already had one person contact me and tell me that they wanted to do the same thing, and email people in their life that they are thankful for. I said, “go for it!” I’m all about it. I would like to encourage anyone else that would like to do a similar sort of thing to “go for it!” But I would also like to encourage each and everyone of you to tell at least one person you’re thankful for merely that, “thank you!” You don’t have to explain it to them, or go into detail if you don’t want to (unless they hound you about it—as some do…HA!), but just pass along some thanks. Sure, maybe you’re like my one friend that I talked to about this, and she said, “but that’s you’re kind of thing. I don’t do stuff like that.” Well, hey, maybe it’s your time to try it! I promise that it doesn’t hurt and people won’t make fun of you for thanking them! =)

I’ll end with this…


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bug(s)...'s more than a movie...

...they are real...

Oh...and did I mention I went camping this weekend?!?!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- For the Love of the Job!

You can pay people to teach, but you can’t pay them to care.
~Marva Collins

It's the teachers who love what they do that will get the most from the experience! It's the teachers that have a passion for their job that the students find themselves being drawn too. The students are drawn to the individual in the sense of wanting to take in what the teacher shares with them; they want to learn from that teacher.

It doesn't take a genius to pick out which teachers are passionate about their role. The kids can pick up on it, just as individuals who do not sit in the classroom on a daily basis can see it. A passionate teacher is visible outside the classroom. A passionate teacher radiates his/her love for their profession where-ever he/she goes. Sure, this is true for professionals in different areas as well, but teachers can hold a special joy for the role they have taken on.

Can you think of the teachers/professors that go above and beyond what's written into their contract as part of their job description? Sure, many of us do not see those contracts, but I can bet you it doesn't require the teacher to attend school sporting events to cheer their students on. I bet it doesn't require the teacher to email/call home about students who are excelling in their classes. I bet it doesn't require the teacher to become an adult volunteer/mentor for the school community service club. I think you get the point. And if that isn't enough, you could go into just about any classroom and take a look around and I would bet that 100% of the things/supplies you see in that classroom were not covered financially by the school district.
Many teachers are not hesitant to open their own checkbooks to do what they can to better help their students grasp the concepts they are trying to relay on to them.

It's the teachers who go above and beyond their call-for-duty that have the passion and love for their job. These teachers love the presence of their students. They love to see them succeed. They love to see them when they are not afraid to get back up and try again after they have failed. It's the teacher that sees the student who struggles academically and/or behaviorally and views the situation as a challenge to overcome rather than a burden to embrace--it's THAT teacher that understands the love necessary for teaching. It is the challenges in a teaching situation which determines which instructors are in it whole-heartedly, rather than those who are half-heartedly going through the motions anxiously awaiting the summer "break."

Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

It's a matter of having the heart for the profession. A heart for wanting to see students succeed! It's the heart of the best teachers that produces a love that is possibly as close to a mother's love toward a child as any non-parental figure can have toward the specific student. The best teachers want to see their students succeed more than anything. The best teachers will go to the extremes necessary to aid their students in learning. But the passion and love goes beyond academic standards. The best teachers care about their students well-being...

It's the best teachers whose actions toward their students speak greater than their words or lectures. Recently, I found myself in complete amazement of how caring teachers are of their students...

I had found myself checking out the new postcards posted on the Postsecret site. My best friend and I typically check them out the first day they are posted and discuss them over instant messenger. We'll talk about the ones we like, or ask if this one or that one belongs to the other of us...HA! Well, this particular day there had been a couple of cards referencing teaching. The first picture in this post was one of them, and the other one was this...

I liked the postcard. Of course, my immediate thought was "favorites." As "unbiased" as we all claim to be sometimes, we do still play "favorites." I mean we all have our favorite teachers/professors, so it'd be absurd to think teachers don't have their "favorite" students.

Well my friend brought up this card in our conversation and said, "the thing about the list of kids during a disaster is so true...hahaha...we had a tornado drill not too long ago, and I found myself 'shielding' certain kids."

I, of course, laughed and in my typical manner responded with a smart-alec remark and said, "way to play favorites ;-) "

It was then my friends responding comment that left me speechless. It was her remark that made me realize that the best teachers really are more than just someone teaching your kids. Her comment not only gave me a new found respect for her as a person (and of course as a teacher), but it also reminded me that there ARE still good people in this world that aren't just looking out for "number one." My friend responded to my "favorites" comment with this...

"nah, it's not even that they were favorites, but that i knew if they got hurt, no one would be there for them, but that if some of my other kids got hurt, their parents/families would take care of them."

I literally sat there and just stared at the response and thought how selfish I was for not being able to even fathom such an idea. I honestly, would never have thought of something so sacrifical as that. Sure, it's one thing to be willing to protect your students as a teacher, but to think beyond the point of protection and realizing you can't help them all, thinking of who would need it the most, NOT simply who you'd want to help the most.

THAT, my friends, is the thought that will remain with me for years to come on when considering how passionate and loving teachers can be. They literally can be the educators and protectors of our children!


I hope ALL the teachers/professors out there have had a GREAT Teacher Appreciation Week! Blessings upon each and every one of you as you continue along with such a challenging, yet rewarding career path! Continue to inspire and be inspired. And don't hesitate to share your findings with the rest of us! You are given such an amazing opportunity to reachout to our youth in more ways than many of us are able too! Take advantage of it for good! Best wishes!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- My Mentors and Inspirations

As I've already mentioned more than once in this series, my life has been touched in many ways by those who are fulfilling the teaching role in life. We all have our "favorites"--or at least that is what I've always thought...HA! My blog that will be ending this series tomorrow will bring up the point of "favorites" through a quote that I think sums up the HEART a passionate teacher possesses! Tomorrow's blog I think will pull together the encompassment of who a GREAT teacher really is through and through, so I hope you'll check back tomorrow for that final installment.
Today, I want to piece together a few cartoons that I found fun, some more quotes that I found so true pertaining to the educational setting and teaching, and finally, mix in some tributes to some of MY favorite teachers and professors who have influenced and inspired me.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
~William Arthur Ward

I use the words "teacher" and "professor" pertaining to the level of education in which the individual is working from. For instance, I believe a role fulfilled in the kindergarten through senior high school grades is a role for a teacher, because it is this individual that truly is "teaching" their students. It is in K-12 that we are "taught" the foundations and building blocks for knowledge. We are taught that 3+5=8. We are taught that "he" and "she" are pronouns. We are taught that water can take on three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. By the time we advance into the higher education system (i.e. college coursework) we have hopefully learned the basics. We have a firm foundation of knowledge and now it is time to see what that knowledge can look like in different forms. It is almost like we are not taught at this point, but rather shown a different understanding of what we might already know. At this point, I feel the individual in front of the classroom is professing to use, rather than teaching us much new information. They are professing that when you take some of the things you were taught in grade school and look at them in this way, you can see this: _________. They profess that what we know can be looked at in so many more ways!

For me, considering teachers I have had, one name sticks out above the rest. This was a freshman high school teacher for me. She was one that I could not STAND when it came to homework time, but today--reflecting back--I am so greatful for the tasks she put before with our writings. I credit her today with much of my writing abilities. Mrs. Gorsuch had a way with students. She's an itty-bitty thing. Basically one of me. But she could sure put the fear of death in ya! HA! She loved her students and let us all know it! I would "visit" her often throughout the remainder of my high school career. Even came back to see her when I'd be back "home" from college. Today, I still have the pleasure of keeping in touch via email with her. Sure, we talk a LOT less frequently today than in our past, but I will still always owe so much to her for the support she showed "her girls" as she always put it!

Don’t tell them how to do it,
show them how to do it and don’t say a word.
If you tell them, they’ll watch your lips move.
If you show them, they’ll want to do it themselves.
~Maria Montessori

When it comes to professors, a few come to mind...

At the beginning of the week when I gave a plug for this blog series via my AIM away message, a friend of mine instant messaged me to ask "who is your favorite teacher of all time, considering from kindergarten to your masters education." I was quick to know that I could not narrow it down to one individual. I explained that I feel each of my "favorites" have played different roles in my life, adding their own contributions that I needed, especially at that particular time, which have left me feeling so grateful to this day for my encountering them. This is a good explaination of how you'll see that my "favorite" professors from my college career differ based on what I felt I learned from them and how they touched my life.

A master can tell you what he expects of you.
A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.
~Patricia Neal

First, there's Mr. Tate. The love I had for this man as a professor truly came from his style of presentation. This man knew how to reach people through a "classroom lecture." He made it more than a "lecture." His classes were complete interactions! He knew the facets of keeping an audience wanting more; how to make people feel what you're telling them! The singing, the out-pouring of love for one-another in the class, the visual demonstrations. He understood the importance of the human spirit and how to embrace it through song, hugs, and the laughter! What an amazing man! It was no wonder he's been such a successful public speaker!

Teach your students to use what talents they have;
the woods would be silent
if no bird sang except those that sing best.

Second, I have to bring it home to a professor from my discipline, Dr. Beck. Brilliant man. Might even be too brilliant for his own good, he would probably be willing to joke! HA! A great sense of human mixed with a mind willing to absorb more and more of what it loves--the study of human behavior (now what's more exciting/fascinating/fun than a combination of those two!?!?! Okay, maybe I'm alone on this one...HA)! If you're willing to doubt my categorization of "brillance", feel free to take a moment of your time to check out his amazing blog, which will most likely leave you lost and confused like me about 80% of the time because he uses too big of words for me! HA! Besides my love for humor, intelligence, and a passion for human behavior--this man as a professor kept me interested in class because I saw him as more "one of us" rather than "one of them." Allow me to explain: Dr. Beck isn't as "old" as the typical "college professor" is invisioned to be. Plus #1 for being more like "us." But beyond that, he was "cool." He was into things we were as students. He would joke with the class about things that weren't your typical joking material with other professors. Going back to what I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, the way in which he influenced me based on the stage of development I was in was how I was able to see him as "different" and "out-of-the-box" in an university setting that was known for being structured with rules and expectations. Honestly, I can recall how one of my best friend and I would sit in his classes and comment on things like how "I can't believe Dr. Beck just said 'crap' in his lecture!" HA! I mean come on now, a professor "can't" say things like that in class. Or can he? He was himself. Yes, he's a Christian man, but he is human--and he was never afraid to be himself in class and not try to fit into the "mold" that the university invisioned all of their professors to be in. Like I said, check out his blog. You'll see he's willingness to discuss topics that would be considered "taboo" but he opening writes the words--I love it!

The secret of education is respecting the pupil.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, I guess you could say I saved the best for last. And any of you who know me, know what's coming here, but I have to pay my respects to a man that touched my life in many ways. Mr. Trevathan taught me the importance of a person! This man knew how to love people! He knew that behind a name was a human being that was worthy of being addressed by his/her name. He knew that we all have potential and he believed in anyone who was willing to believe in his/herself. He loved no matter the ethnicity of the person, the race of the person, the gender of the person, the socio-economic status of the person, or the way they preferred their chicken cooked. He influenced me because he SHOWED me that he believed in me. He would reference me as "doctor" and when I would laugh he'd say, "well you are going get a doctorate one day, aren't you?" HA! It was funny because I can't even ever really remember if I'd ever mentioned that to him before or not, but he just knew his students. He was great with names! You could mention a past student of his and he would say, "Oh yes. And she sat right over there in my Ethics class." Something I loved about Mr. Trevathan was how his importance of knowing people's names and addressing them by their name carried over into his emails. I noticed rather quickly that all of his email correspondences to me always started with "Kim:" Because of my love for that and my belief that addressing someone by name, I have continued that practice of addressing probably 98% of my emails to people in such a manner. Still, beyond this, Mr. Trevathan knew what was important in life--he was wise enough to see past what the world might tell us is important...

Probably my foundest memories of Mr. Trevathan came from my times spent with him talking in his office rather than in the classroom. Granted, I'll admit, I LOVED his classes (took all four that he taught) and I always openly admit that he was the only professor I felt I could stand taking a 3-hour night course from and not worry about finding myself dreading having to go to class! HA! But my visits to his office were special to me because he always took the time to meet with students, because he knew that was important, especially to them. I was never a student to go visit professors for one-on-one visit time. That sort of thing always made me nervous! HA! And I'll admit, it did with Mr. Trevathan too, but I knew I would rather go in and be nervous and get to spend some time joking with him and learning from him, than not. But the visit I'll remember the most was the time when I went to the front desk worker and said I was wondering if Mr. Trevathan was in. She said she knew he had stacks of tests to grade and that he had closed his door asking to not be disturbed, but she said, hold on, and she proceeded to call him and tell him I was there. I had already planned to leave and said, "oh don't worry about it," but to my surprise he said, "Oh, send her right in." I went in and was barely able to find him behind the mounds of tests and papers he had stacked on his desk to grade, but he popped out from behind them and shifted them over and propped his feet up and proceeded to ask about my day!

They're all stories I've shared many times before about Mr. Trevathan, but they still influence me to this day. The power of the actions of an individual in our life can last for many years. Unfortunately, Mr. Trevathan passed away about 2.5 years ago, but since then I've been blessed to keep in touch with his lovely widow. They both understood the importance of loving people and making that a priority!

A teacher
Takes a hand
Opens a mind
Touches a heart
Shapes the future.

This weekend starts the college graduations for the first semester of college classes that I have not been a part of for the past 6+ years. I do not have the pleasure of sitting in a classroom and being influenced by the one at the "head-of-the-class" nowadays, but luckily, my classroom stories have not ceased! I always welcome stories of laughter, love, hardships, frustrations, and uncertainties pertaining to the school setting! Fortunate for me, I have some amazing friendships with educators! I am blessed to have two best friends that are young teachers and many, many more friends who find themselves in a classroom on a daily basis.

I want to thank those who are willing to let me share in their stories from the classroom! To Ms. Singleton, Ms. Osborn, and Ms. Willcox--I love to hear about it, so don't hesitate to share your experiences with me (the good, the bad, and the ugly...HA)! Still, I love knowing so many other friends are experiencing the true opportunity of helping others through giving them the gift of knowledge! As Oprah says, and I agree, an education is what can set us free!

My blessings and respect to my friends in the educating profession:
K. Bailey
K. Flynn
B. Hall
H. Inwood
J. Kripner
M. Mitchell
R. Osborn
E. Sedwick
J. Singleton
L. Singleton
J. Takala
J. Wideman
M. Willcox
S. Williams
A. Witcher
[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- The Power of the Teacher

One of the most important things a teacher can do
is to send the pupil home in the afternoon liking himself
just a little better than when he came in the morning.
~Ernest Melby

The words of someone you respect hold special meaning for anyone, but when it comes to a young mind, they can be some of the most impacting words when encouragement comes for an admired adult!

The role a teacher can play in a child's life is enormous...

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
~Henry Adams

I love that quote. There is so much truth in it, but at the same time, I feel that quote often leaves the reader to focus on the academic lessons a teacher teaches a student. Sure, the student is taught to read and that skill will continue to aid the student for his/her rest of his/her life. Sure, once the student learns that 2 + 2 = 4, he/she can count money and balance a checkbook in hopes of living a financially stable remainder of his/her life. But what about the none academic affects teachers have on students?

Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.
~Bob Talbert

How about the student that learns to accept and love his racially-different peers because he sees his teacher doing it, even though is mother and father do not share that love? What about the student that decides to further her education beyond a high school diploma because her English teacher believed she could be that doctor she wrote about wanting to be when she grew up, even though neither one of her parents attended schooling beyond the 8th grade? Or, what about the student that wants to give up on school and drop out because he can't seem to grasp the concepts in his algebra class, and his parents at home are too drunk to drive him to class in the first place?

Teachers encouragements can be golden! But, beyond that, their actions can speak louder than words. How about the teacher who takes the money from her own purse to pay for Junior's lunch because she hears his stomach growling and she knows the lunch period has already passed? What about the teacher who gives up going home after school to stay for the basketball game to cheer on her student who sits in her 6th period social studies class, even though he may sit the bench all but 2 minutes of the game? Then there's the teacher who gives up her conference period to work one-on-one with Samantha to make sure she grasps what an irrational number is before next week's TAKS tests.

A master can tell you what he expects of you.
A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.
~Patricia Neal

In each situation, the teacher didn't have to say a word for the student to know that he/she was loved and respected by that mentor. That feeling goes a long way with anyone, but especially with a young child who is still absorbing so much of life.

I think as I reflect on a combination of the educational field and the field of behavioral sciences, I feel that based on the different stages a child/adolescent goes through as he/she progresses through development, there are types of influences that are most important at different times depending on the child's age. Allow me to give some examples...

Elementary School -- Students are in need of academic confidence. School is new to these kids, even up through the 4th or 5th grade. These kids need to be reminded that they CAN learn this stuff. They CAN learn to read. They CAN get past the "easy-readers." They CAN memorize the multiplication tables. Up to this point in their lives, they weren't required to take on such involved tasks. Homework is like a job a kid has never had. These kids need confidence in their academic abilities. They need to believe that they CAN do it and that their teacher believes that he/she WILL get it, even if he/she is struggling.

Middle School -- Students have developed academic skills. They understand the concept of the educational setting. They have grasped the challenges placed forth on working their mind, but now they are being challenged by the body. Things are changing in their bodies and hormores are kicking in. These changes are not always easy to accept. These kids are looking for acceptance. They may be having a hard time accepting the changes, so they need to see that others are willing to accept them through the changes. It's important to remember that you can accept a person without accepting their behaviors.

High School -- These students are in need of confidence. They need to believe in their selves and feel that others believe in them. They need to believe that through their failures (because they will have them), that they can still carry on. They need to believe that they can reach their goals. They need motivation to strive for their fullest potential. They need to feel that their mentors have confidence in them--a confidence that believes they can do what they set their mind too. Acceptance is once again important at this stage of life. Students begin to group up based on levels of acceptance, and when acceptance is not seen in areas where a student hopes to find it, disappointment can set in. These students need to feel like they are accepted for who they are, not where they fit in.

College -- These students are discovering who they are. They need to believe that who they are becoming is someone with purpose. They need to believe that they can achieve the purpose they place before their selves. They need to understand that change is okay, just as much as it is necessary. They need to realize that the life lessons they are learning (which will be many, and the lessons might be thrown at them rather quickly) are happening to others around them as well, and that they are not alone. They need to feel as if their short-comings are just another opportunity to have another try to do better next time. They need to believe that when having been faced with a short-coming, the adjustments they make will be viewed as a courageous effort rather than a mere reactionary response.

It is the teachers/mentors that can grasp what a student needs during each stage of his/her life and then can place the appropriate words and actions into the situations surrounding those times that will inspire and leave a lasting impression on a student! I know I have had the teachers and professors who were able to do just that, and for those I have been grateful, as they have had lasting influences on my life.

A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark.
~Ancient Chinese Proverb

Maybe the mark a teacher leaves will last through the end of the day. Maybe the mark will last through the next testing period. But maybe the mark will last till the student gets a chance to share it with another individual in his/her life who can benefit from it just as he/she did.

Teachers inspire youth everyday. Most teachers today were inspired to go into their field by a teacher they had growing up. Whatever the case, the power and influence a teacher has is immeasurable!

[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- The Power of the Student

Much have I learned from my teachers,
more from my colleagues, but most from my students.

Most teachers will give their students the credit for making their job as joyful as it is for them. Don't get me wrong, EVERY teacher will tell you he/she has the days where his/her students drive them nuts (i.e. does the day before a holiday, the day after a holiday, or the day after TAKS ring a bell!? HA!) I'm told there are the days where you question your sanity in taking on SOOO many kids when you might have two or three of your own waiting to be fed at home. But still, it is those moments of joy that they bring to you, whether it's on a daily occurence or every-other-day, which pays off!

Sure, the students might be the younger and less experienced in the teacher-student relationship, but it's hard to find a teacher who doesn't claim that they learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them. This doesn't matter the age of the students, as we all have something we can learn from one another. If you disagree, consider the best selling book "All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. See, if a child as young as 5 or 6 can teach us some of lifes biggest lessons, I've no doubt the lessons available to observe and learn only continues as the students grow up.

A few months back I made the mistake of telling one of my best friends (who happens to be a teacher) that since I was attending graduate school and she was now pursuing her career in educating others, that I was the one still in the "learning" role, while she was in the "teaching" role. She was QUICK to correct me and let me know that she is learning more now AS a teacher than she ever did in the classroom listening to the teachers. And you know, as I thought about it, there is only so much a text or a person can tell you, it's the experience that keeps "learning" going. And with a group of students before you each day, the experiences only keep coming!

Sure, students are HILARIOUS! And many times it's their humor which can teach us a lesson! The importance of not taking a situation too seriously is a child-like response in life. But yet another, and maybe one of the most important lessons a student can provide is the lesson of looking at a situation through a different lense. Children and adolescents often times see things totally different than adults. Sure, maybe it is a sense of immaturity, which is why it's important to have an adult to help children make appropriate decisions, but at the same time, kids have the ability to not take a situation for face-value. They are willing to question what adults sometimes are not. It is these opportunities that students provide teachers with that can make the light-bulb moment for the teacher, rather than the student.

Students have more power and influence in a classroom than others might give them credit. The impact they can have on their teachers is AMAZING! Often times I hear about teachers motivated to be better people, or better teachers because of a situation concerning a student. Sure, teachers have an unbelievable level of influence on students' lives, but the impact goes both ways...

I've been blessed to hear many teacher stories. I've heard about teachers becoming heart-broken due to student situations. When a student's words or thoughts of being unhappy with his/her teacher get back to that teacher, it can leave the teacher discouraged. A student's feelings toward a teacher do impact that teacher's feelings. A teacher doesn't want to hear that he/she is not liked by one of his/her students. Maybe that student is a difficult student, but teachers care about being accepted by people (i.e. students) just as much as the rest of us care about being accepted by others.

But the influence on the teacher's emotions isn't always negative. One of my favorite stories that was shared with me came over a phone call. I had answered my phone from one of my friends who teaches and I could tell she'd been crying. She proceeded to explain that she felt she was being a baby for crying about the situation, but she couldn't help herself. She went on to tell me how she had attended a swim meet for one of her students because the student had asked her if she'd come. My friend almost didn't go because she had other things she needed to take care of, but she decided to go and make a quick appearance--and boy was she glad she did.

The student ended up swimming her best race ever! She immediately came up to my friend after the race and asked if she saw it (to which my friend said of course and congratulated her). As the student went back over to the team, the student's parent and coach came up to my friend and proclaimed that that was the best she had EVER swam and they expressed their greatest appreciation for my friend (the teacher) to take the time to show up, because they knew it meant so much to the student!

My friend was elated that her presence meant so much to the young student! It was a friend's experience of feeling over-joyed that reminded me again of how a student can have so much power over his/her teachers!

[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

Monday, May 07, 2007

Teacher Appreciation Week!

This week I plan to post a blog each day to show appreciation for the teachers and educators which so humbly provide for the betterment of mankind on a day-in and day-out schedule. Sure, they may get summers "off" as people say, but many times there is much preparations going on during that summer to make sure everything is ready for the up-coming school session. Many workshops are attended during this time. Many new textbooks and curriculum are being familiarized. Some teachers get involved with summer-school teaching. Whatever the case, teachers are hard-working individuals (and I haven't even BEGUN to credit them with the work they put in in working directly with the students)!

Unfortunately, teachers are not among the highest paying professionals. Matter of fact, they are probably near the bottom of the pay-scale among working professionals. Because of this, I feel it is even MORE important to acknowledge the respect and honor that such individuals deserve. Maybe they will not be compensated in a monetary fashion, but they will always receive one of my highest levels of respect!

This week is a typical week for "Teacher Appreciation Week" at many school districts. Because of this, I wanted to do this blog series this week to show my appreciation for the many teachers who have influenced my life. I can recall many great memories of learning from teachers and professors in the classroom setting during my past. I've been blessed with a good number of teachers/professors who have had quite an impact on my life. I still keep in touch with educators from my high school as well as college experiences. I have been influenced in more ways than I can count from such individuals. However, my respect for specific teachers goes beyond classrooms I've sat in. I have been honored to be close friends with many young teachers beginning their teaching careers. I have two best friends who are middle school educators (my UTMOST respect to someone willing to take on that challenging age...HA)! Each of my friends that have accepted the challenge of educating the youth of our nation are troopers in my opinion, especially with the turns society has taken over the year (i.e. concerning the educational system, the behaviors of the youth, the parental support, etc.)

So I challenge each of you to thank a teacher (of any sort) this week! Someone that has had some influence on your life through their teaching. Maybe it was someone you sat in a class and listened to lecture, or maybe it's a mentor outside of the classroom setting, or maybe it's a peer/friend who has shown you how to love others through their teaching ways.

Maybe we can't get them "more pay," but maybe we can let them know that they are appreciated through other venues this week!

[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Closeness in Friendships...

I think we get closer to people during times of need.

I know that sounds so obvious, but I think we don't realize it when it happens a lot of the time. And if we do, it's usually after-the-fact.

Have you ever experienced how at times you seem to "randomly" get a lot closer to one friend than you'd been in the past? This can be with best friends or just other friends, maybe that you're already close with or not.

I've been thinking about this. I think the "random" closeness comes from a typically unconscious yearning to meet some need. We really do need one another and as we get closer (i.e. "closer" concerning many different venues), we are being there for one another--meeting those needs.

Sometimes the closeness seems to last for an extended period of time, sometimes it slowly dissolves as the need can go away, or be replaced.

I can think back on a sort of sudden closeness I formed with a friend a while back and I remember at the time thinking how it seemed strange that I out of no where I was feeling like this person was suddenly becoming a "best friend" of mine because we were getting so close, but at the same time I was finding myself thinking how odd that was, as this person was fairly different from any "best friend" I'd ever had before, but also that the friendship was forming in a way I had never found myself gaining a "best friend" in the past. I just remember it all seemed strange, but at the same time, I had no problems with us being close...

That closeness faded with time, not because of anything "bad" happening, but I truly feel we just didn't need the closeness anymore, so now we are just fine being regular (for lack of a better word) friends again. I can sit here and think of what need she was getting from me, but I have a difficult time recalling what was going on in my life at that time, as to why I needed the closeness, but I have a feeling there was something going on if I could remember when exactly it was that this took place.

Friendships are just such an intriguing thing to me. I love considering their different aspects.

I just rattled off this post in a matter of a couple quick minutes. It's just my current wondering thoughts. I might touch more on this subject again later on (just depending on my writing mood)...