Let’s talk a trip down memory lane. Walk with me, won’t you? The scene: It’s 1995. I’m a wee 5th grader. I liked school, but I wasn’t great at it. More than anything: I was shy. I didn’t want to participate, I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, and I definitely didn’t want to get in trouble.
“Please get out your math homework,” Mrs. Burt instructed the class. My little hand reaches in the cubby of my desk.
Folder, spiral notebook, pencils, pens, drawings, friendship bracelet. Where’s my homework? I wonder. I know I did it. I know I put it in here. Where is it? I search and search. The class has already started going over the answers, and I still can’t find mine. I know I did it! I feel panicky. I messed up. I’m in trouble. But I did it! I did the homework!
If you have missing homework, it means one horrible punishment: you must sign The Book. I’ve never had to sign The Book before in my life. It’s really mostly for kids who misbehave but forgotten homeworks counts, too. I quietly make my way over to The Book hoping no one will notice. Tears are starting to sneak out of my eyes. This is the worst, most shameful moment of my life.
Mrs. Burt quietly comes over to me and puts a comforting hand on my back. “Did you forget your homework?” She asks quietly. I can only nod. “You know, I think if someone has to sign The Book just once, they’re still a pretty good kid.”
That moment has stayed with me forever since. That reassurance that it was okay that I messed up. Knowing that my teacher saw the good in me, it really changed how I saw myself. And it made me feel safe at school. I could make mistakes and still be a pretty good kid.
Yesterday was my first day of work for the 2011-2012 school year. In a week, over 100 kids will file into my room. Many of them will be shy, or scared. Some of them will be loud and boistrous. My hope is not only that my students learn about English, but that they learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. I want them to love to read, and write, and learn. I want to see them grow and succeed. I hope that I can do for my students what Mrs. Burt did for me all those years ago.
Thank you to all of the teachers I’ve had over the years who made the extra effort:
- Thank you to Mrs. Forrester for telling me that I had a good reading voice.
- Thank you to Mrs. Burt for telling me that I was an okay kid.
- Thank you to Coach Benford for helping me with my volleyball serve and giving me the chance to prove myself.
- Thank you to Mrs. Graves for making theater an incredible experience and for letting me come back and visit.
- Thank you to Mrs. Storz for giving me the courage to present in front of a group.
- Thank you to Ms. Coe for seating me next to Stephen and for assigning a lot of group work.
Who are some teachers who positively impacted you? What do you wish some of your teachers or your schools had done differently to make it a more positive experience?
Oh, and the homework that I couldn’t find in my desk in Mrs. Burt’s class? I found it a few days later. It had gotten pushed to the back of my cubby and crumpled into a ball. I guess that’s what I get for being disorganized!*