As the first day of school approaches, teachers have
been back to work for several weeks. Scheduling, yearly planning, and
curriculum studying has been underway.
In the shuffle and excitement, many of these educators
are overlooked. I have been on that side of the desk. I remember the
sleepless nights of planning and preparation. As we rush into a new
season of academics and athletics, let’s celebrate our educators and
Here is a little personal story meant just for them:
I did my student teaching in the 4th grade, which is a
priceless, wonderful age. My student advisor was a veteran teacher of
30-some years. She was a blessing and a true educator, but my greatest
teachers were the students.
I believe one lesson I learned should be shared with all
who use red pens and stickers. This lesson came to me through a little
guy named Michael.
Michael and I had a difficult relationship. I wanted him
to follow the class rules. He didn’t want to follow the class rules. One
rule he refused to follow was against tipping chairs.
The punishment had the usual classroom management
procedure. Michael had been through all the preliminary steps and was at
the final stage. If he tipped his chair, he had to stand.
This was difficult for me. He was a rotund fellow who
wore nothing but sweat suits that fit him better in the beginning of 3rd
grade than in the end of 4th grade. His seat was close to the front.
Each time he had to stand, it was in the front of many viewers.
I hated making him stand. At times, I felt like it was
more punishment for me. Yet, he continued to test me, and he continued
to tip his chair.
On several occasions I took him aside and talked with
him. I explained that I cared about him and didn’t want him to get hurt.
The rule was there to protect him from a cracked head. He would always
agree with the need for the rule and the punishment he was receiving.
The weeks continued. We would have several great days.
Then it would happen again. The tipping and standing would return. I
knew he had to hate me. I knew he would celebrate the day I left.
Well, the end of my student teaching arrived, and a
party was planned. I remember sitting at the desk taking lunch count
when Michael walked in from the bus. I never saw him look so happy. My
heart broke. I knew he was celebrating that the end had finally come.
He came directly to my desk carrying a beat up gift bag.
Horrible thoughts raced through my head. I could only dare to imagine
the carnage he had placed in that bag of despair. As he handed it to me,
I feared the worse. My imagination ran wild. Why would he bring me a
present? What terrible item had he placed in the bag? Snakes? Spiders?
I thanked him and smiled.
“Please open it now, Mrs. Mlynek,” said Michael.
Aaahhh! Think quickly, don’t open this in front of the
class whatever you do, I told myself. “No,” I said, “I will place it
over here with the others and open it later.”
He looked hurt and disappointed, “Please,” he said
again, “Please open it now. I have waited for this for weeks.”
Of course he has. He has been preparing for this attack
since day one, thought I.
I looked at him again. His face still glowed with
happiness, but there was something different about his eyes. I looked
closer and could see tears beginning to form. Against all good sense and
reasonable thinking, I opened the bag.
Inside was a beautiful wooden picture box. It was truly
lovely. There was a slot for a picture on the very top.
“This slot is a place for my picture with you,” said
Michael, with tears flowing down his chubby cheeks. “I saved up for
weeks to buy it for you.”
I too was crying as I reached to hug this blessed little
cuss that had driven me crazy for over eight weeks.
“You always cared enough to make me stand,” he said
We shared a moment that I will never forget. His picture
still sits in the slot on top of my beautiful picture box. He taught me
many things that day, but the one I share now is the most important.
Teachers and administrators, your job is difficult.
Besides reading, spelling and math, beyond writing, science and history,
those that sit in front of you need more.
Remember Michael and what he taught me: They don’t care
how much you know. They need to know how much you care.