First, let me say thank you! Thank you to all the teachers for starting the year with positive vibes, excitement, eagerness for new challenges, and your commitment year after year. I hear from my friends who are teachers about piles of papers that need grading, angry parents, disinterested students, constant testing, and unreasonable requirements that seem to conspire against teachers that make you wonder if you are wasting your time. I want to offer some encouragement -No, you are not, and WE REMEMBER!
Admittedly, I wasn't the best student in my school life. My struggles did not come from my lack of brain power. My first experience was in first grade when I developed test-taking anxiety from my teacher. I still remember the embarrassment of her marching over to me and aggressively penning a BIG RED ZERO on my spelling test in front of the entire class. That zero was not because I misspelled the words(they were all spelled correctly), but because I memorized the order of the words written on the blackboard days before and not in the order recited during the spelling test. My little fragile brain and self-esteem couldn't understand at the time what I had done wrong. I knew the words were correct. I did them exactly how Mommy and I practiced leading up to the test. I also couldn't get my classmates laughter out of my head after she made such a dramatic scene.
Back then, I didn't understand how this affected my learning, however, I now can comprehend that single acts of any kind can leave lasting impressions for a lifetime, good and sadly, at times, not so good. It still stings today as a 40-something-year-old woman who co-founded two successful brands from nothing. Still, today, the unfinished business of that BIG RED ZERO haunts me from time to time.
I share that experience because as an educator, you have so much power in how you lead and direct learning opportunities. This includes self-esteem and, if we are honest, the foundations of a child's life. You are so important. You matter. Your influence and guidance activate the love of learning, exploration, challenge, and change that will produce or stifle tomorrow's next leader. As an educator, you are creating a better future.
It's a new school year and I want to say thank you! While I have read great articles on how to learn new faces; suggestions for lesson planning, starting with a blank slate; and other tools on where to begin, I would like to focus on you, the pillow of our communities—you who are igniters of change.
You are the therapist in constant practice, the unofficial mediator, giver of hugs, the one who has their own family yet takes on the struggles of other families daily: WE REMEMBER!
I understand it takes a unique individual who gets up every weekday and energetically and enthusiastically engages in the continual growth of every child in your classroom. I also want you to know your work is not in vain. WE REMEMBER those who have cared enough to go the extra mile for our growth. Inspiring leaders like:
Ms. Dorothy James, who saw that a B+ in her eyes was below my learning capabilities, pushed me towards that A.
Ms. Francis Hayes spent her summer tutoring me during my fourth grade because she recognized my learning disability. She knew I could overcome it with simple routines and more practice. Though my biggest lesson from her was the realization that different was not to be viewed as unfavorable, just different, so embrace it. This was critical growing up in small town USA, where the labels of choice were gifted, average, or below average.
Ms. Strickland, one of the most extraordinary teachers, taught young ladies how to be ladies, value their strength, and speak up for inequalities. Undoubtedly, she is one of the reasons I am passionate about inclusion and diversity.
And how can I forget Ms. Martha Heyward, my senior year teacher, who extended grace when I tried to find my way in Algebra? To be honest, I am still trying to figure out Algebra. But that's another blog for another day; the most memorable life lesson she taught me was to walk away from situations that no longer positively serve you.
While students are learning important school subjects, they are also learning real-life skills that shape them into hopefully well-rounded citizens. So as you start your school year, even if administrators forget to tell you how important you are, we do not forget; WE REMEMBER! And we are incredibly thankful for the soft touch, the stern look, second chances, and the push when needed.
Make it a great year!