Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Change the Story

This morning I read a very sad article about a journalist running negative articles about educators and education during a previous teacher appreciation week. A teacher contacted the writer and asked them to share something good. She was told " good wasn't news" and that negative and bad is what people are interested in. This teacher requested this year was that we change the story and share something positive. I don't think it's true the negative and bad is what we want to hear, I believe that is what is force fed to us constantly and we have little choice in the matter. I for one am thrilled and inspired when I read or watch something positive in the news. Its gives me hope when I see stories about random acts of kindness, kids defending other kids being picked on by bullies, teachers going above and beyond their duties (which many of them do).

I was extremely luck in my life to have had several teachers that made a life long impression on me.
When I was in the fourth grade we moved and I changed schools. I was extremely shy for several reasons. First I was the new kid. Second I was the new kid that happened to have cerebral palsy. While I have a very mild case I was the one who was picked on at my previous school because I was different. The first day of school was a day I won't forget for two reasons. First other kids finally liked me! I had people wanting to sit by me at lunch, talk to me at recess, wanting to be my friend and it was awesome! Second I met Mr. Swink. He was the absolutely the best teacher I have ever had, he made me feel welcome and special. He encouraged me to get into sports. Something that completely mortified me in the past. He was a swim coach, so I tried swimming, it was a disaster at first. I could not for the life of me swim straight, my left arm had a mind of its own. Instead of just letting it be or letting me quit. He worked out a way for my stronger arm to correct the problem. Lo and behold I swum straight and from that day forward loved to swim. He helped build my confidence as a person and in the classroom. I no longer let my CP define me. I learned if kids made fun of me I didn't need someone like that in my life and I actually could feel sorry for them for needing to lash out in those ways.  I maintained a relationship with him though my high school years. I would often go back and visit him or ask for advice. I invited him to my wedding but the invite was sent to an old address. A few months after the wedding my brother ran into him. They both called me from my brother's cell phone and he explained the address mix up and told me he received it, after the date had passed. He told me he would have loved to attend. That made my day. He was by now retired and spending winter months in a warmer climate. Several years ago I ran into him while out shopping with the girls. Even though I was 35 and he had not seen me in nearly 20 years he recognized me. I told my girls right there that this was mommy's favorite teacher EVER and he was the BEST hands down. His wife told me " you have no idea how much he loves to hear that".  It's very simple really. Give credit where credit is due.

I was lucky not only to have had Mr. Swink in my life but in high school, I had several teachers that encouraged me, supported me and helped me make decisions that would affect my future. I always loved history, not the most popular subject in school but it struck a chord with me. I had a teacher my Junior year that made History fun and exciting. Mr. Thilman's class was one of my favorites,  so much so that in college I decided to major in History, He was also one of the people I asked to write a recommendation letter for me, his words meant so much to me. I still have a copy of that letter.  I have passed that love of history onto my girls who at ages 6, 4 and 3 are reading and enjoying stories about Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart.

One final teacher that stands out was my Junior year English teacher and creative wring teacher, Mr. Hertzlieb. It is very hard to put thoughts, stories and ideas on paper and have them be judged. Mr. Hertzlieb saw something in my writing and encouraged me to continue.  To this day writing is an outlet for me and I am forever grateful. He too wrote a recommendation letter for me and I still keep a copy.

I have no doubt that many many people have similar stories to share. Teachers come into our lives for such a short time but make such a lasting impression. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing your profession and excelling at.

To my friends and family members who are teachers, I have the utmost respect for you. I am sure that you have hard days in which you question your choices. Please know that you do make a difference and you are appreciated for a life time.