One Child at a Time

One Child at a time – one day at a time!

              The lessons we learn from our students . . .

1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Isaiah 58:11, “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives. Some lessons are painful, some are painless. But, all are priceless.” -unknown

Just like the quote above, lessons learned along the paths in life can be painful or painless, but all are priceless. God places us right where we need to be, and God places the people in our lives (even 5th grade students) in our lives just when we need them. He makes no mistakes.

God gave me the gift of teaching, and even though I fought it for a while, I eventually understood and have been blessed many times by following His will and His plan.

As teachers our responsibility is to teach the students, who are in our classrooms, the curriculum, the standards, the subjects, and hopefully along the way life lessons. We are responsible for teaching each child, with all their unique abilities and disabilities, and teach each one using methods and strategies that accommodated their learning styles.

As teachers our responsibility to teach each child is driven by our desire and determination to help each child succeed. We teach because it is our heart to teach, to share knowledge, to observe those ‘aha’ moments, and because God has given us the gift to teach and guide others.  We teach because we understand the importance of a well-rounded education for each student. Yet, I am reminded that along the way as teachers we also learn valuable lessons, and quite often those valuable lessons are from our students.

On my desk sits a homemade gift given to me by a student about 7 years ago. She gave it to me during Teacher Appreciation Week. It is a reminder of a special young lady I had the privilege of teaching and the lessons I learned from her.

Before I talk about the gift though and its importance in my life, let me talk about the school setting and the student. The school I taught at for the last 9 years of my teaching career was a Title One school in one of the highest poverty areas of our city. I requested the transfer to this school because I felt God calling me to move to where I was needed more, where possibly I could make a greater impact. Little did I know that these students would make a greater impact on my life. This precious student and her younger student were being raised by their grandmother, because their mother was unable to care for them. The grandmother was determined to see these two girls grow and succeed in life. There was an instant connection between us when she walked in that first day of school with this student. There is still a connection between all of us, and I am so blessed by their presence in my life. At the beginning of the year, this student was very shy, soft-spoken, and could not maintain eye contact with any adult. In class it was difficult for her to answer questions out loud in class or even small groups. She just could not speak out in front of others. However, as the year progressed, I was witness to her gaining self-confidence, and eventually she became outspoken and a leader in class. It was amazing to watch the transformation and to still be able to watch her grow and develop into a strong, confident young lady. Every day I looked forward to her questions and conversations in class!

During Teacher Appreciation Week, she was so excited to present her homemade gift to me. After realizing the uniqueness of the gift, I was speechless. A lot of time and effort on her part went into this special gift. It was a “Quote Jar” filled with quotes from me or from our discussions in class, from our life lessons. Some were silly but most of them were serious life lessons. We laughed quite a bit in class that year, and were silly often, but a sense of humor is important in the classroom environment. There were about 75 colored popsicle sticks inside the jar and each one had a quote from the year. Imagine my shock when I started reading each stick, and realized she had been listening, paying attention, observing, and remembering things we had discussed or that I had directly taught throughout the year.

As teachers, we try to teach life lessons as well as the curriculum. I was fortunate to be able to teach an all-girls 5th grade class for the last 6 years of my teaching career at this Title One school. I was also fortunate to have an administration who allowed me to use some enrichment time to focus on manners, poise, self-confidence, and how to present oneself to new people. Some of the quotes in the jar were those life lessons I tried to instill in them –

  • Say please and thank you.
  • Better good manners than good looks.
  • Good manners = good karma
  • Your mood should not dictate your manners.
  • Keep calm and respect others.
  • Manners cost nothing.

But there were also those quotes that were just meant to inspire them and help them in life. The fact that she remembered them and gave them back to me in the Quote Jar became an inspiration to me to this day, which is why the jar remains on my desk.

  • Stars can’t shine without darkness.
  • Broken crayons still color. ♥
  • Every end is a new beginning.
  • It always seems impossible until it is done.
  • Never give up.
  • Everything is hard before it is easy.
  • Wisdom is the ability to learn from change. ♥

And probably the most important one for young girls to learn –

  • You do not have to be like anyone else. Be yourself! ♥

My mother instilled in me a love for learning. I never tire of learning new things, studying history, reading, and writing. I think effective teachers need to love learning so they can instill that same love in their students. Our students are always watching and listening, even when we are not directly teaching them. This student’s gift brought that home to me that year, and every time I see it on my desk, I am reminded of this beautiful child who came to me as a shy, soft-spoken little girl, and has now grown into a beautiful, self-confident young lady. I am reminded of the lessons I learned from her that year, that will desire and determination we can overcome the obstacles in our way. Its presence on my desk is a reminder of the transformation I saw in her that year, and the transformation I saw in myself that year as a teacher. I am reminded of how each student is observing, listening to, and learning from the people in their environment, the teacher they have each year in their lives. What an impact we have on their lives without even realizing we are we are having that impact.

Lessons learned through 28 years of teaching were many! I could write a book on the lessons learned from students and their parents. However, one vital lesson learned and realized that year was that students are sponges – they are soaking up everything that is around them, the positive and the negative, the direct teaching and the indirect teaching. As teachers, we need to make sure that what they are ‘soaking up’ from us is all the positive things we can teach directly and indirectly. We need to make sure they are learning from us, directly and indirectly, the things that will empower them to move on in life and be the best they can be.

I said at the beginning of this blog that God places us where we need to be, and He places people in our lives that we need to be around. That year, that one precious year, was part of His plan and I am so blessed by this student, her grandmother, and all the other students from that year. I have had the privilege to stay in touch with many of them and I am amazed by the growth and success I see in each of those girls. Their presence in my classroom was a blessing from God, and one I continue to learn from.

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