Wednesday was our annual awards ceremony at our school.
Each year, we hand out awards to some of the students who have received good grades. It’s a nice evening event where parents come and take pictures of their children as the teachers and administrators hand out plaques and certificates to deserving students.
Although I’m not required to attend this event, I’ve never missed one in the 16 years that I’ve been teaching at this school.
I enjoy seeing the students get recognized for a job well done. I like shaking my students’ hands and saying, “Great Job. I’m proud of you.”
It’s one of the best parts of being a teacher.
Wednesday, however, was unlike any other awards night.
Wednesday, the PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) gave an award to a teacher.
That teacher was me.
The PTSA has never given an award to a teacher. They always reserve their awards for deserving students, so when the PTSA president started talking about all that the teacher has done for kids, I was totally shocked when I realized she was talking about me.
She was talking about me!
That was so cool.
All my colleagues looked at me and smiled – like they all new about it beforehand.
The audience applauded, and I know my students were proud.
It was a great night. It re-energized me, and made me want to do more for kids.
Teachers need a pat on the back too sometimes.
As a teacher, we don’t often get recognized or appreciated. We often are blamed for the lack of success of our students. Sometimes we have those days when we don’t think our efforts are being noticed.
In those times, I have to remind myself that I’m not here to get pats on the back. I’m here for the kids.
They need to know that there is someone in their corner, someone who wants them to succeed, and is willing to take the extra time to make sure that they do.
If you’re a new teacher, you’ll have those days when you’ll have the temptation to say, “Hey! What about me?” You’ll get frustrated when all people notice are your shortcomings, and they ignore all the hard work you put into your job.
That’s when you have to remind yourself that you’re not there to please the critics. You’re there to make a difference in students’ lives.
I always tell my student teachers to keep a feel-good folder. A feel-good folder is a place where you collect all the nice notes from students, the emails from parents who thanked you for a job well done, those little drawings that the students make of you, or any kind of correspondence that was positive. “When you feel unappreciated,” I tell them, ”go and read through those messages again.”
I recently received a letter from a former student who wrote me the following message:
Dear Mr. Rangel
This past week in my sociology class, we watched Tuesdays with Morie. It made me think about the teachers who have made a difference in my life. You are one of those teachers because you helped me have a love for history. You made learning history fun by being creative and finding creative ways to make learning history fun. For example your Civil War in a Can. Or your history raps. My favorite history rap was I Know My Rights history rap. Hope you’re doing good and thank you for helping me have a love for history.
I thought this was so cool.
The bad thing was that I didn’t recognize the name. I had to go and look her up in an old yearbook. It turned out that she left my class in 2007.
When I saw her picture, I remembered her. She was one of those students who I thought didn’t really like my class.
That note made my day. I stapled it on my wall near my desk, and I’ll add it to my feel-good folder at the end of the year.
So again, to you new teachers, keep doing all you can for kids, even if it seems that nobody’s noticing.
Someday, like in my case, they’ll say, “Great job. I’m proud of you.”
In case you’re curious, here’s a link to the rap that Melissa mentioned. Don’t laugh.