As a teacher I had the opportunity to influence many young lives in the 31 years that I taught. If you had asked me at the end of each day “How many young lives did you touch today?” I would have answered you—-“this was just another ordinary day in my life, I can’t think of anything I said or did that was memorable.”. Yet as several happenings in my life have turned out and I have gotten feedback much later from my students, I found that I did touch young lives for the better. Let me give you two examples:
During the second year that I taught, I came across one of my students in the hallway who was in tears. I asked her if she’d like to talk about it and after school she came to my classroom and talked to me. That formed a relationship with this student that lasted through high school and beyond. She came from a dysfuncional family and called me many times—-several times I talked her out of attempted suicide something that her brother had tried and succeeded in accomplishing. My wife and I had her babysit our young son. She graduated and went to college to become a special education teacher. During college she called me several times for advice and even after college I heard from her. Many years later as I was visiting with her she told me that the one thing that she most remembered was me telling her when she asked me about changing colleges because of a problem with a professor. I had told her that “wherever you go you take your problems with you. So you might as well solve them where you are right now.” I didn’t remember saying that, but years later she recalled that advice and told me how much she appreciated it and had followed it in her life.
The second example is drawn from my teaching also. Many years after having a young lady in my U.S. History class in high school in California, I received a letter from her. It said: “Mr. Bell, you probably don’t remember me. I was one of the “druggies” that hung out on the road south of school. But I was in your U.S. History class and your cheerful attitude and the way you treated your students, and me, was always an inspiration to me. I graduated High School, married, and had children. When they were grown I decided to go to college and get my degree in Education and become a teacher. I want you to know that you were the inspiration for me doing that. Thank you!”
When we really don’t realize it, we do and say things for good or for ill that deeply affect someone around us. Years later we find out about it. It was not just a “normal day”. For that student, it was a day that they remember and that influenced their life.
TEACHERS SHOULD BE VERY HUMBLE AT HEARING THIS AND SHOULD MAKE SURE THAT THE MEMORIES WE LEAVE WITH OUR STUDENTS ARE LIFE-BUILDING AND LIFE-SUPPORTING.