I’m about four days into my vacation. Being a teacher in a year-round school, I get three months off each year, and April is one of my OFF months. Not being in the classroom, I didn’t have anything to discuss in this blog, so I thought I would tell you about an experience I had recently with a student of mine. We’ll call her Jackie. She’s a great kid who does well, and I don’t know too much about her home life, but one day she came up to me and asked me, “So Mr. Rangel, what did you get me for my birthday?” I thought quickly, and reached down on my desk and handed her a blank 3X5 index card. “Here,” I said, “Happy Birthday!” I expected her to get mad or walk away, but she reached out and took it, saying “Thank you,” as she walked away. Then she turned back and asked me to sign it, so I did, and she placed it in the front of her binder for all to see. That struck me as kind of odd, but I learned that even that little time I took for her was important.
The next day, I called her up to my desk and said, “I have another gift for you.” I handed her another card. On the front of the card it was blank, but I had taken the time in the morning to write her a little note that read, “Jackie. You are a wonderful young lady. I know you are going to do great things in your future. I am very proud of you.” I signed it.
I walked away after giving it to her, but I heard her say, “Thank you Mr. Rangel.” I later saw that she had replaced the first card with the new one on the cover of her binder.
Again, I don’t know what her home life is like, but if she is a lot of my students, that note card may be the only words of encouragement she hears. This is what makes teaching worthwhile. I plan on giving out more 3X5 cards.
Here’s my advice for today: Assume that each student has a terrible home life and that school is the only safe place for them. Be that one positive influence in your students’ lives. Assume that their poor behavior is a result of that terrible home life. That assumption will make it easier to deal with . It may not be true for most of your students, but if you assume that it is, your encouraging words and welcoming smile will make a world of difference for that one or two students for whom that terrible home life is a reality.