Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making a Difference

You never know what kind of difference you are making in a student’s life until years after they have left your class.  Over the last 13 years that I have been teaching at PHS I have found some of my biggest joys on some of the worst days at work.  Opening an email from a former student who’s writing to thank you for preparing them for life after high school, recognizing that they had ability and creativity, or showing them through your actions how do be a good influence on others is a reward bigger than any certificate that could be given by a school administrator.  I recently received one of those emails.

“Hey Mrs.Wirt!
i just wanted to say hello and to tell you that im studying Art Education at Radford so hopefully ill be as good as a teacher you are some day. My art classes are very challenging but thanks to you im more educated on the topics in class than most of my classmates.”  - Casey

This from a student who I knew was creative, and smarter than she would let anyone think she was, just made me smile all day.  I get a good chuckle when I hear that one of my former students is majoring in Art History, when they seemed to hate the “art history” part of my class, or is majoring in Art Ed when they hated school.  At some point you have “that kid” that sits in the back of the room and who doesn’t say much.  You often wonder if he’s even listening to you.  He may one day just surprise you.  I had a student like that a few years back.  He only talked when asked a question.  His art was deep and showed that he was quite a thinker and a creative soul.  It was like pulling teeth to get him into a conversation, but I kept trying.  So why was he ready to quit school his junior year?  What he wrote at the end of the first major test in my class answered that question.  I don’t even now remember what the question was but I’ll never forget his answer. 

“I honestly can’t remember the answer to this question, but I know it’s in that book on the third shelf of the book case.  And a very wise person once told me that I didn’t need to know all the answers, I just needed to know where to find them.” – J. 

He used my own words to answer the question.   He got credit for that answer.  He really was listening.  That same year his schedule changed.  He still was in my art class, but he was also now in Honors English!  He let someone see past his appearance and record to the smart young man he really was.  He graduated the next year and now is in art school studying painting and art history and on track for an MFA. 

You just never know from day to day what person’s life you will change.  So the next time you go into a classroom, whether just beginning a day, or a day you feel like crap, or even a day when nothing has gone right at all; just remember someone is watching, listening and learning.  Even if you don’t think they are.  

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