I will never forget one of the days I was reminded why I became an educator. I say “one of the days” because I have been fortunate to have had several moments that have brought me back to the reason why I became a teacher in the first place.
If you’ve never worked in a school environment, then you probably do not know how mentally and emotionally draining the job can be. At least that is the case for any teacher who puts their whole heart and soul into working with students.
Many times there are days when frustration rises to high levels because we don’t see the fruit of our labor. We work long hours, spend time thinking of ways to connect with our kids, sometimes even to the neglect our own family and loved ones, and yet we still wonder, “Did I truly make a difference?”
It was a Friday afternoon, two years ago in April, when one of my eighth grade AVID students knocked on my office door. She asked if I had time to talk to her. I was swamped with office referrals (the life of a middle school assistant principal), but I still took a couple of minutes to talk to her.
She didn’t say much. She asked how I was doing, but that was basically to turn the attention away from the real reason she came to see me. She had a card that she had made for me and she gave it to me. I asked her if I could read it and she said, “Yes.”
I read her words and immediately I was moved by them. It was a letter thanking me for being there for her because, little did I or anyone else in the school know, that she was thinking about committing suicide. Her father had abandoned her and that traumatized her. Life with her mother wasn’t any better. However, she told me that the times that I spoke to her and asked her how she was doing, were times she knew someone cared about her. That alone was reason for her to keep living.
It takes a lot of courage for a teenager to open up to an adult about their personal life. That is why I will never forget that day. Who knew that the two or three minute conversations that I had with her were going to impact her that much? To me, what I was doing was really nothing big. However, to her, it was everything.
I learned something that day. To never discount the difference we can make in someone’s life by simply being there for him or her. Our smile. Our attention. Our time. Sometimes, that’s all that is needed to make an impact.