Friday, November 18, 2011

Educators Make a Difference!

At the end of my book, Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make, I asked readers to email me stories of the educators who've changed their lives, and I promised to share them on my blog. I hear these amazing stories every time I deliver a keynote speech, every time I talk to a class of pre-service teachers, every time I lead a workshop. But rarely do educators actually write their stories and send them to me. Mostly I hear, "It was my kindergarten teacher Mrs. So-and-so!" as they're shaking my hand on the way out of an auditorium. These stories are difficult to capture, told in passing, in the middle of others told in passing. They're all amazing and wonderful, and I wish I could remember the details enough to bring them all back to this blog, but it's not realistic that I would be able to do them justice.

This week, however, an educator shared a story with me that's so inspiring that I did remember details, memorable enough that I want to share it with my readers. Two days ago I spoke to 1500 educators at the Educators are Essential Celebration, a recognition of American Education Week that honored the public school teachers of Columbus Municipal Schools, the Lowndes County Schools, and numerous private school educators from Columbus, Mississippi. After I shared my story about the difference my own first grade teacher had on my life, I was whisked away by a local reporter who interviewed me briefly. I returned to the auditorium to gather my things just as the audience was released, and so I became the official door-holder and ended up talking to almost each and every one of the 1,500. So many of them wanted to share their "Mrs. Warnecke" with me, and I was inspired by each one.

But toward the end of the crowd spilling out of the auditorium, a gentleman in a suit and tie stopped in front of me and told a brief story: "I was a high school dropout. I was going nowhere. And one night the high school assistant principal saw me at a basketball game at the school. He literally dragged me out of the stands and to his office. There he handed me the GED booklet. I'm now an assistant principal myself, and soon I'll receive my doctorate in education."

My mouth fell open. From high school dropout to school administrator soon to be called "Dr." The success of this man can be traced back to one MOMENT, one moment in time when an educator refused to give up on a kid, a moment when everything changed.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that we don't make a difference in this profession. We're doing it. Moment by moment.


Maggie said...

As a teacher candidate at the end of a quarter, it's easy to forget that I'm becoming a teacher for this reason. The teachers in my life who have given me the confidence to change my direction are what has inspired me to try to do the same. Thank you for sharing this.

Joe's Blog said...

Like Maggie I am also a teacher canidate coming close to the end of a semester and stories like these push me to finish strong. With exams coming up I sometimes find it hard to motivate myself but then I think about the difference that I will be making in childrens lives when I finish my degree. Thank you for this post!!

Thatgirl said...

That is a great story. It is so inspiring to see the difference that one person, one moment, can make in a person's life.

Mark Rabbitt said...

Having taught high school students for the past five years, your post made me think about whether or not I have made this type of impact on any of my students. I am also left wondering if I would have enough courage to do what that principal did. Often times it is easy to say that you want to make a difference or have an impact on students' lives, but when the opportunity presents itself are you going to be strong enough to help. I wonder if, as educators, if we should reflect more on the opportunities we lost to help an individual student or on the rare moments we impacted a life.

Gabrielle said...

This story is amazing, it is a reminder of the reasons why I went into this profession. Hopefully, one day I will make this kind of impact on a student's life. One of my favorite quotes that my Aunt, who is a teacher says to me when I talk about the struggles of teaching is "They may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel." Teaching is beyond introducing academic material, it is also about caring for your students and showing them that you believe in them.