What Has Really Changed You As An Educator? #cpchat #edchat

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What was one experience that completely changed or impacted your professional life? What happened? How did it change you?

These questions were posed to me recently.  It’s not an easy thing to think about.  I’ve been an educator for fifteen years now, first as an elementary classroom teacher and then as an administrator.  During any span in schools you are constantly experiencing things that are changing your reality…hard to pick just one!  That being said I was recently reflecting on one experience…so my choice was easy.

About a year ago I received an email…went something like this:

Hello Michael,

You had my daughter, Delaney as a second grader. I just wanted to let you know that positive impact you had on her way back then is still with her.

My first year of teaching was amazing.  I was fresh out of college and right into a second grade classroom at a small school in Vermont.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I learned most of it that year.  As a class we were one.  I looked forward to every single day with this group of students (and many more in the future)…we knew each others rhythms and just genuinely cared about each other.  I had wonderful classes after this one too; however, this was that class for me.  You know the one…the one that stays with you, that makes you tear up a little bit…that one.  We used to take the entire morning (we’re talking four hours) on Fridays and just make books and stories….spreading out all over the classroom…these huge, elaborate three dimensional books (Literacy Through the Book Arts…check it out, thank you Paul Johnson)…and my colleagues were supportive enough (and I think they knew there was something special going on in that room) that they rearranged student services to make sure ALL of our class was able to stay for these times (looking back I realize how big a deal that was…now that I spend time trying to sort that kind of schedule out).  In any case, you get the idea.  This group of students is very special to me.

I taught at that school for another eight years, switching grades once (who doesn’t want to teach Kindergarten?!) and then moved to my first administrative position in another district.  When I received the above email I’d been an administrator for approximately six years, thirteen to fourteen years removed from that group of students.  I’d seen a name in the paper every now and then that brought me back to that time, but no contact with families or students.

And then this email came…with this picture:

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This is Delaney on a volunteer trip to Ecuador.  This picture hangs in my office

As I said I had a very strong connection with all the students in this class (or at least I think I did), especially Delaney. Delaney was this amazing kid.  She was confident, strong and persevered through everything, but she was also sensitive and empathetic and a leader…and she understood me and taught me more than any course or professional development will ever teach me.  Delaney and I joked with each other all the time….ALL THE TIME, but she knew I would always be there for her.  On the last day of Delaney’s second grade year we had a “ceremony” in the classroom where I talked about each student and gave them a book before sending them on to summer and third grade.  I remember talking about Delaney.  I remember her mom crying, I remember tearing up myself…and then when it got too serious, Delaney and I brought it back down to earth:

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Always the professional!

So back to those questions:

What was the one experience that completely changed or impacted your professional life? What happened? How did it change you?

It was that email and that picture…it reminded me of the power of what we do, to think of our students not just as who they are but also who they will be and to always, ALWAYS have some fun.

Thank you Delaney.

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