On getting what we need

Today, just when I was going through a period of wondering if I’m able to reach and help my students as much as I hope to, I got an email from my supervisor in the English department, asking me to come to his office when I’m free.  So I wandered over just minutes ago to the other side of the department and knocked on his door, only to have him wave me in and pick up his phone and start dialing.  Then he motions me to sit in his chair, and gives me the phone.  He’s dialed his voice mail, and the woman who’s left a message for him is a mother whose daughter was in one of my classes last semester, wanting to tell him how grateful she was her daughter had me for a teacher.  She wasn’t sure if she liked going to college and was borderline ready to drop out, but throughout last semester talked about my class, how interested I was in what everyone was doing, how I took time out to help everyone individually, how I wrote lots of comments and actually cared about their work, and how this has decided her daughter’s mind to stay in school.  The mother then said she looked through her daughters essays and, disqualifying herself as an expert on writing, said she could tell that I went beyond the call of duty with commenting and caring about her daughter’s growth as an individual in the world, and wanted both me and my supervisors to know this. 

Sometimes we hear exactly what we need to hear exactly when we need it.

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9 responses

  1. That would have had me in tears, I think. Imagine all the other kids out there whose parents didn’t happen to call the school, but who are also affected by the work you’ve done in their lives.

  2. It definitely stunned me, in a good way, Karen. Teaching in America is often a thankless job. We’ve lost the understanding of what it is education does for us–help us continue to advance our knowledge of how to live in the world as a species, which is why I think we have so much going wrong in the social fabric of the culture right now. In Japan, teachers were treated with great respect, and it was understood by many kids even at a really young age that teachers are giving you what you need to live well in the world. It’s why I felt so good about my place in the world while I was there. So it’s always a stunner for me here when a student or one of their parents tell me thank you, who understand the relationship we have is more than just a hoop they have to jump through to get a better job. I do hope there are more. I really do.

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