A few years ago, my own kids were in middle school. Unlike me, my son LOVED P.E. class. He liked it so much that he even signed up for gym classes when he didn’t have to. He always came home with stories about what happened that day in class. Because he was 6’2 at the time, athletic, and probably a foot taller than most of his classmates, he was positive his teachers were making up rules that only applied to him to make the competitions in the class a little fairer. But he loved it and was an active participant. He also was in track in middle school and ran long distance, just as I did. He threw the shot put as well, which is a little unexpected considering he is tall and skinny, as I was at that age – not the image I have of a shot putter. But his coaches encouraged him to give it a try. They taught him the proper form and technique and encouraged him to practice getting the skill down and become good at it. And he did – in fact he won 2nd place at the city track meet – thanks to those coaches who saw something in him and gave him the opportunity to participate in an event where he wasn’t the stereotypical participant.
After having my kids in middle school, I started thinking about Mrs. Shearer again. She wasn’t mean. She may have been strict, but she was fair and kind and a really good teacher. In PE class, she taught us the different events in gymnastics – bars, beam, horse – things I never would have done without her having us do them. I learned how to shoot a lay-up, I learned how to bump, set, and spike in volleyball. I even learned the basics of football and finally understood what was happening on the field when I watched a game. She was also the track coach. Instead of having us pick the event we wanted to do, she made all the girls on the team try every single event. She taught us how to hurdle, how to long jump and high jump. She taught us how to throw the shot pit. She made us run long distances and sprints. She timed or measured our heights or distances in all these. That is how she chose the top 3 for each event. We learned events we may have otherwise ignored. We found skills we didn’t know we had. She put an abundance of time and effort into teaching us all of these things – that was a lot of work that she could have easily avoided. But she wanted us to know that anything was possible if we learned the skill then practiced it to become better. Mrs. Shearer was an amazing teacher! She was probably the best teacher at Lakeside Junior High School!
You probably get the big picture by now – the purpose behind my story. Sometimes working with young people can be a thankless job. While your students really do appreciate what you do, they may not always let you know – no thank you, no hug, no sign that you made a difference. But sometimes it creeps up on them…it took me nearly 40 years to realize that Mrs. Shearer was an awesome teacher. So when your students are out in the world as adults, something may trigger a memory for them. Then they just may look you up on Facebook and send you that message that you really did change their life.
I know my story is about a teacher and a student, but all of you can have an impact on a child – or even one of your co-workers. Though you may never hear it, you have given your students strength. You have given them memories; you have shown them love. As you begin this year, remember that you are creating memories for your students that they may reflect on later in life. Continue to love and inspire them! Continue to make a difference every day.