Slice of Life Tuesday: Four particular words

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Last Thursday, in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, I received an email from the mother of a student I’d had.  Her son was halfway through his eighth grade year, and she wanted me to know that he was thriving. We had had our ups and downs, this child and I, when he lived in Room 202.  But here he was, happily on his way to high school, and she just wanted to say: “Thank you for your patience then and now and for the kind and caring way you guided him through middle school!”

I was so moved by four words in her email – patience, kind, caring, and guided.  Nowhere did she speak of rigor, or high standards, or grades, or testing skills (although I would like to think that these are somehow gently folded into the mix of our every day sixth grade lives).  I read and reread that line many times last week; they anchored me as I was struggling through some difficult issues swirling around me.  They brought me right back to the reasons I teach in the first place.

Children need patience, even though this is the hardest thing to be consistent with in the hustle and bustle of a school day.  It is hard to be patient when a child is wrestling with a concept or an answer while the rest of the class gets restless.  It is hard to be patient when a child turns in work that you know was rushed through, perhaps at the breakfast table, and not their best effort. It is hard to be patient when a child gets lost in a daydream about that awesome sledding adventure, or a worry about why a certain friend seems suddenly cold. It is hard to be patient when our kids live so in the moment, and sometimes need us to step into that moment, too.

Kind  – well, our kids just know when this is genuine.  Sometimes kindness is just a reassuring pat when the day is off to a bad start, sometimes it’s that extra five minutes at the end of a long day to make sure it ends on a good note, and sometimes it’s letting something slide – giving a kid a break when no one else is inclined to.  We teachers seem to switch our kindness on and off depending on how we might be feeling that particular day, but kindness is consistent.  Our kids know this, and they need this.

I think caring for our kids goes hand in hand with believing in them and wanting to guide them.  It’s taking the long view about the kids in our classrooms, and the willingness to want to be part of what will shape them into fulfilled, productive young people.  It’s putting the lesson of the day aside to react to that incident in the hall, that event in the news, that mean word spoken during a group project.  It’s wanting to be part of a child’s life in a meaningful way, beyond just the curriculum.  It’s having faith that every kid can find their way, in their own time, with just a bit of shared wisdom (every once in a while) to light the path ahead.

Four words. I let those four words reach deep into my heart last week, grateful that this particular parent chose to include these particular words to thank me, that particular week.

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31 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Four particular words

  1. AWESOMENESS! This was such a wonderful post! Keep that anchor posted somewhere for yourself so you can ALWAYS remember that the important parts of teaching really aren’t the numbers. Those numbers can only happen when the patience, kindness, caring, and guidance have happened.

  2. I am going to share this on Facebook. This is what it’s all about. I’m so happy I found you on my SOL blog jog. I plan to visit again and again. Kinship is the very best.

  3. YES!!!! As I read your post, all I could think of was this quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  4. Those are indeed four incredible priorities. It’s nice that the mother took the time to let you know what a difference you made – that will stick with you and motivate you to keep doing what you are doing — it’s working!

  5. These notes seem to drop into our lives when we most need them, don’t they. I received one from a student who failed my class for never giving up on her. Thanks for reminding us what’s really important.

  6. A thoughtful post indeed. Your words about patience hit home especially today. I find myself being less and less patient as the year wears on. Thank you for that reminder that all students need patience and care.

  7. What a wonderful email to receive at a low point of the week for you. How wonderful that this mother recognized all you did for her son and all the children you have in class. Such wise reflections from you!

  8. I needed this post today. I live in Indiana and we are a mess with our state testing. If only they realized what is important – your four words – we would be in a much better place right now. Powerful post today!

  9. Somehow this kind of affirmation comes along just when we need it the most. Those four words perfectly hit the nail on the head. Proof of the impact you have on your students.

  10. The way you give as a middle school teacher every day is so much more important than whatever happens on THE TEST. I’m so glad this mom emailed you to let you know how much her son is thriving. What a wonderful gift.

  11. When “those” words come flying your way, it is a gift that lasts a long time. I’m glad for you that when you needed it most, you received it! Hugs and best wishes for a good week this week, Tara. I love that last quote, a perfect cap for your perfect four words!

  12. I love that a parent told you the impact you had on her son. Sometimes we don’t get to see how our work changed someone’s life. Thanks for the reminder about patience – It is such an important element of teaching.

  13. I am so thankful to read how you know and emphasize what is best and right and true about being a teacher. All your students are fortunate to have a teacher like you. I would bet that they and their parents all know that, whether they send a note or not. But I am so glad you received this note when you needed it most.

  14. The work of teaching should be centered around words that described the stance you tood towards your students. In being patient, kind, and caring you like a passionate teacher guides your students toward belief in the power of I CAN. Your ending image quote rings true for me because I am impatient when looking for the impossible to become possible. Thanks.

  15. Wonderful and inspiring, Tara. Thank you! These are very important words to teach by and to live by. Your story about your student and the quote at the end of your post reminded me of a saying I heard in a movie (I think it was The Marigold Hotel) “Everything will work out in the end, and if it’s not working out, it’s not the end”.

  16. I love the words this mother shared with you and how you shared your thinking with us. It’s always a pleasure to hear from former students and their parents. So glad this note came to encourage you last week. That last quote is so perfect, keeping faith in our students that it can and will happen…even if not on our watch. So much wisdom in this post, my friend!

  17. Sometimes those touching emails are received at the perfect moment from those we least suspect! The students I work with will most likely never “meet the standards” how they are measured in a standardized test, but I know in my heart they will be successful. When that will happen and how it will happen I can’t tell, but I know that your quote “just because something isn’t happening right now doesn’t mean it will never happen”. Thanks for sharing what is really important!

  18. We are truly important in shaping the lives, not just the learning, of the children we care for and teach every day. Thank you so much for this post!
    ~Jennifer
    Stories and Songs in Second

  19. Tara, this message is so powerful. As I read through your post, I kept thinking back to the superintendent’s message I heard today. He spoke during a day of PD, highlighting quotes from teachers about why they taught. He stressed that not one person mentioned anything about THE TEST. He reminded us that our job was not to get kids to pass the test, but to help kids find that love of learning and to do all the things you talk about in your post. Keep doing the wonderful work that you do. It is important. 🙂

  20. I’ve already said this in another comment today, but words are so powerful. This is why it is so important we share our thanks more! Those uplifting words were shared with you and then you shared with all of us … it’s contagious. A slice of happy!

  21. So, so, so much truth here! As the mom of two of those less than ideal students, I can’t even tell you how much I appreciated those teachers who treated my boys (and sometimes their mama!) with a little extra kindness and caring. I especially love the line about “giving a kid a break when no one else is inclined to.” I am going to make an extra effort to do that for a kid tomorrow! Thank you!

  22. So, so true, my friend. Your post brings tears to my eyes. I am so missing life when I took what I had in the classroom for granted, in fact, I wanted more of what we had then. Now…???

  23. The message this parent gave you gives back so much. What you gave guided this student well beyond the standards in my opinion. You set him up so he when he was ready to grow, he would. This post is the reason we teach. Thank you so much for all you do for kids and the words you share.

  24. Thanks for the reminder of how important teacher’s words and attitudes are EVERY day for EVERY student. I am going to make sure I thank teachers every day as well! That is time well spent! ❤

  25. Four words that indeed touch the heart! How wonderful to get that encouraging e-mail in the midst of a difficult week. Thank you for the reflection on the importance of a child-centered classroom!

  26. How wonderful to get this note on a very bad day. The universe works that way sometimes, doesn’t it? And those are the best four words.

  27. Thank you for sharing these wise words, Tara. It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily business that we sometimes loose sight of what’s truly important: being kind, patient, caring and guided. I hope this week has been better for you.

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