"People don't remember the days, they remember the moments."
While most people know exactly where they were on September 11, 2001, I wonder if they remember everything about that day. For me, I remember many of the day's moments. During my fifth year of teaching, I was a third grade teacher in a small rural town and had three students celebrating their birthday that day. It was also the day that I was getting my leg cast off after a long three months. I worked a partial day, and as I was leaving, my principal and I watched the horrific events that were unfolding on the tv in his office. And I remember the car accidents on my drive to my doctor in Ann Arbor. There were so many. People were distracted. They had just heard the news. But I don't remember getting my cast off. There was a bigger moment that overshadowed it.
Another moment that I strongly remember was when the Space Challenger blew up. Mrs. Moran, my sixth grade teacher, had just wheeled the tv into her classroom so we could watch this historic event. I remember the brown tv and the squeeky wheels. I remember the excitement as the Challenger took off and the silence as it exploded in mid air. But that was it. I don't have any other memories from that day.
And this really had me thinking. These moments were tragic. So tragic that they have stuck with me. But what about the happy moments? And I started to reflect on my 21 year teaching career.
I remember Shannon from my first class that I used to call Grandma because she was loving, nurturing, and calm. She was seven.
I remember Kameah's journal entry when she wrote about how proud she was of all the A's that she received on her report card. I kept that entry for years before I mailed it to her when she was an adult.
I remember Jasmine who used to read inside her desk, very sneakily, while I was teaching.
I remember Aaron whose mother was so proud of him. She introduced me to her entire family as "his teacher."
I remember Zehlin, as a first grader, walking home from school because he was the oldest and could do it. I would keep an eye on him from my classroom window even though he only lived four houses away.
I remember Kelsi's life size metal Albert Einstein, complete with a wig that I would tell to go sit back in his seat because it looked so realistic.
And I remember Carolyn. A third grader that I had. She was smart as a whip but rushed through everything. I showed up at her house one day after school with a "magic" mechanical pencil. Anyone who used this pencil would automatically write neatly. And it worked for her.
There were so many days when I worried that I was not getting through the curriculum at the pace I needed to be. I was stressed for years at the demands I placed on myself. But when you really think about it, what are your students going to remember from your teaching ten years down the road?
Although I remember many moments from my years, I wondered what, if any, my students remembered from having me as a teacher.
So I reached out to them.
This is what they had to say:
Kayla: "A love of learning. You made learning fun, and helped us get excited about learning new things. I was just talking to someone yesterday about the Living Museum project we did in your class. Fourteen years later and I still think about your class and use your creativity to help me with my path to becoming a teacher."
Madisen: "I have decent posture because of you."
Stephanie: "You taught me that there is no "right" way to learn. More-so, breaking the mold of textbook reading and doing something interactive/creative to reinforce topics like no test can."
Sarah: "I first think of the multiplication master. I remember you were on maternity leave and when you came back, the first thing you did was congratulate me...I remember feeling special. And I remember once you had your baby, you let the whole class take turns holding him."
Kelsi: "I have so many memories of being in your class that stand out, it's hard to pick. One random silly one that always makes me think of you is I was doodling in class one day and you showed me how to draw a rope, like vertically with the letter "s." And I still draw it that way and every time I do it, I think of you. Probably more important than drawing rope, I credit a massive amount of my writing skills through the rest of my education to you. I learned so much about creative writing from you. I also felt that you were one of the few teachers who challenged everyone in class, no matter how well they did."
Charlotte: "I wanted to tell you that you are one of the reasons I became a teacher. I can remember the golden plunger and countless other things I did as your student. One thing I know for sure is how supportive and kind you were to my mom while she was going through getting her degree and you always believed in our family. You always had the highest expectation for us and made us truly feel like more than just your students. I still carry with me how much of an impact an educator can have when they truly care and accept what a family is going through, and I do everything I can to be that kind of mentor/advocate for each and every child and family I encounter. I believe in the power of people and I have no doubt you played a part in that."
And Carolyn: "A sense of responsibility and ownership. And a love of writing that I carry with me to this day. And I still use the same kind of mechanical pencil because of the "magical" one you gave me."
In this teaching age of testing, testing, and more testing, take some time to make moments that your students will remember long after they have left your classroom.