A few days ago I was heading into the library to pick up my young adult novel, Reached by Ally Condie. I saw one of my former students talking on her cell phone outside the library and we shared a quick smile and a wave as I entered.
I picked up my book and was standing in line when that same student came up to me and said, "Mr. Kushlak, Thank You." She went on to tell me that she was now in honors English in the high school and she knows it was because of the foundation I gave her as a sixth grade student when she was NOT on the honors track. We shared some pleasantries and a hug and we went our separate ways; me with a smile on my face.
A few days later I was outside after school for bus duty and another former student came up to me. He shook my hand and said he has been meaning to come see me because he wanted to thank me for helping him with poetry. He understood now why I hounded him about trying to say more with less while writing free verse poetry because he feels he is really good at it this year. Once again a few pleasantries and we went our separate ways, once again, me with a smile.
I do not share this to put myself up on a pedestal as some great teacher that reaches all these kids. In fact, I share these stories because both of these encounters came at a time when I was feeling very low about my teaching. I was not totally happy about how I was connecting with students and I was lamenting over some things I wish I would have done differently from the start of the year and trying to decide how best to set my students up for success for the rest of the year.
These two students picked me up with simple, sincere thank yous. And suddenly the year was looking better and I was getting excited about some of the ideas I was having. As I continued to think about those two students and their impact on my mood and outlook for the rest of year, I was reminded of a CD I have of a talk by Father Larry Richards entitled The Truth. In that talk Father Larry Richards says, "You need to tell the people you love, that you love them."
These students didn't tell me they loved me, but they said thank you to someone they were thankful for and those simple words lifted me up. I urge all of us to be people who recognize those who are blessings to us because of their love, or their guidance, or their discipline, or their sacrifice for us and make sure we say Thank You. Because you never know when that simple thank you will make a difference in someones life who has made a difference in yours.