Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sometimes Nothing is Like You Expect

Even normal seeming days can hold surprises.

Yesterday promised to be a little exciting, because I had scheduled my second ever flight lesson. I did one last summer as well, putting me on pace to get my license somewhere around age 70. 

Flight lessons are prohibitively expensive. Anywhere from $150-$200 for an hour, so I have to wrestle with the side of my brain that says "Don't spend that money!" and listen to the part that says "This is why you have money!" 

Flying is also amazing, aside from take off when I am certain my little plane will wobble itself off the runway into a heap of steel. You can see everything from up there. I counted 8 Cascade peaks. The Willamette Valley suddenly looks like the Willamette Valley does on a map. We scooted over to Silverton in about 10 minutes and even flew right over my house.

Tuesdays are the nights I usually do trivia with a bunch of my co-workers (I've come a long ways in 7 years). But last night my girlfriend had an event planned with her employer's family, and I was expected to come. So off we trekked in the heat, and I was already counting down the polite hour and a half we could spend before leaving to catch the end of trivia (thoughts I now feel guilty about).

When we knocked on the door, instead of being greeted by my girlfriend's employers, it was the parents of a student I taught the last four years.

Because I am slow, I didn't quite grasp what was happening until I saw about 20 of my 8th graders stream out of their garage. A surprise party! 

It was a perfect summer evening, one that reminded me of when I was a kid. We barbecued, had a water fight (I lost), played volleyball and basketball. They even set up one of my top three all time favorite Social Studies movies that I tell them to watch when they are old enough The 300.

I wish I could bond with all my classes like I did with the 8th graders. They will be a special group to me not how well they did in class, but for the kind of people they were. They started the Random Act of Kindness Club, planted the school garden, and turned a broken down bus disaster into the world's greatest kickball game.

As I soaked it all in, I remembered something that I told myself to remember long ago, but somehow always forget. You never know what you might mean to your students. Throughout high school, I had teachers that I absolutely idolized, though they probably never knew it because I was shy and quiet. They were role models in my life, and shaped me to be who I am today. As a teacher, that's part of what you're signing up for.

Teaching every day, there is so much to deal with. Lesson plans, grading, constant emails, and ever increasing focus on state testing. While the kids shuttle in and out of your classroom all day, it's easy to forget that they are people with their own issues and lives, not simply receptacles to shove information into and keep from talking too much. You never know what a kind word or gesture can mean.

Making a difference is not just limited to teachers. We all have people in our lives that look up to us. We can all change someone's day with a smile or genuine compliment. We can all inspire others to greater things. 

That's really an amazing power, if we chose to use it. You might not know what you did mattered. You might not ever know. But it does, and you matter too.

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