Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oh, The Impact You Can Have - Teacher Life

Wow. Just wow. I am completely floored by the generosity and kindness of my students.

Today was the last day with one of my English 103 classes, a class that emphasizes critical thinking by pushing student buttons on hot social topics (No "safe spaces" here).

I try to make my classes as fun as possible. No one said that classes HAVE to be hard in order for people to learn something. I try to be open too, and get to know my students personally, as much as possible. Connections like this is what helps students to learn and grow.

Today I saw just how much I can impact a student's life.

Since we are required to do something for a final, even if it's not a final test, I chose to make today a haven for my students. They could come in and do make up freewrites or talk to me about their papers, or even just work on something for another class. Or, if they really wanted to, they could just come and chill in a comfortable environment during finals week. We made it a potluck.

It was completely optional, but ALL of my students were there, save two, and one of those two had told me two weeks ago why she wouldn't be there.

Several students bought me gifts. GIFTS. I've never had students buy me gifts. And these guys are amazing. They knew exactly what kind of gift I'd like.

One student bought me two Pokemon tumbler cups, with Pikachu and Squirtle on them, wrapped in pawprint wrapping paper because she knows I love Pokemon and animals.

Another bought me a beautiful leather journal, a sketchbook, and a gorgeous set of colored pencils. She knows I love to color and write and draw. But the biggest gift is the thank you card she wrote. She told me that I was the only teacher she felt completely and 100% comfortable with all semester and she thanked me for helping her through all the difficulties she faced this semester. I'm so glad I was able to do something so nice for her.

Another student got me a canvas box that says "Mischief Managed" on it, with a set of footprints underneath. She knows I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and I've been encouraging her all semester to read Harry Potter, despite the fact that she has dyslexia. She fell in love with it. She actually told me that she HATED English at the beginning of the semester... but now she's planning to become an English teacher because of the experience she had in my class. How amazing is that?

Another student gave me an old key with the word Zyearth stamped on it. It's like the key to my novels. It now hangs on my keyring as a reminder of why I write. So amazing.

Many of my students came up to me during class and told me how much I had changed them this semester, just being a caring teacher and opening their minds. I have never given so many hugs to students before. 

But I think the biggest and most important gift came in the form of one of the thank you cards I received.

One student told me that she is so glad she took a chance in my class, because by doing so, she got put into a group with two amazing girls. And during the last two weeks, those girls gave their hearts to Jesus.

Wow. I teared up reading that.

I am openly Christian with my students, regardless of what school I'm in. As anyone who knows me knows, I am open to people of all religions because Jesus loves everyone, and I certainly don't push Christianity on anyone, but that doesn't mean I'm going to be shy about my beliefs.

So to hear my student say how far our combined influence was able to impact two amazing people was just completely mind blowing.

She started the thank you card with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi, who is my confirmation saint, which made the card that much more special.

I once complained to my friend Brandon that sometimes I just see how many problems the world has and I feel like I can't ever do enough to try and fix things. It's overwhelming. But he said something to me that I'll never forget.

"You have dedicated your life to the betterment of others."

Today I see just how true that statement is and how much impact it actually has.

This is why I am a teacher.

Thank you guys.