"We become what we think about." ~ Earl Nightingale

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then visit me at my new blog ...

Giraffe Journal

and/or website ... Labyrinth Journal
both self-hosted at WordPress
where I publish as myself
rather than under a
pseudonym.

I've not had much time for posting or blog visits, but if you're interested I hope you'll find time to check out my new blog, Giraffe Journal or my Labyrinth Journal website ... both self hosted at WordPress.

Thanks for your visit and have a delightful day ;--)
Hugs and blessings,


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Gift of Gratitude in a Simple Thank You


This morning while clearing out my gmail inbox, I almost dumped (without reading) a message that contained a story I'd like to share with all who pass this way. In addition, I've decided to impart two personal experiences of my own ... triggered by this video.

The 1st occurred on the last day of my 1st year of teaching 6th grade in a middle school setting. Being the "newbie" on staff and taking two classes created at the last minute when enrollment numbers were higher than expected, I ended up with an odder than usual mix of students. My morning "core" class contained 5 fun-loving marginally motivated boys who although likable enough, drove the rest of the students crazy when having to sit near or work in a cooperative group with any of them. The afternoon class contained 33 students, just 5 of whom were girls. Needless to say, I found the year challenging ... even though I'd been teaching for decades.

On that final school day with my students engaged in saying their good-byes and signing autographs in yearbooks, when the office buzzed the classroom and told me a parent was on his way down to talk with me, I reminded myself that I'd have 10 weeks of summer vacation in just a few hours as I steeled myself for one more thing. A man entered the room before I could get from the intercom to the doorway and announced in a loud voice (no doubt embarrassing the heck out of his son) that he was there to "shake the hand of the teacher who turned his boy's life around" ... and as I extended my own hand, I murmured a prayer of gratitude that this wasn't another problem to be dealt with after all.

Interestingly, the boy in question was one of my best students that year and because of this I'd had no reason to read his cum files. Therefore I had no idea he'd barely passed the elementary grades and had previous problems at school. I don't know why B turned things around for himself in 6th grade. He wasn't one of the 5 boys mentioned previously. Perhaps he realized he didn't want to be like them? Whatever the cause, apparently he had entertained his parents throughout the year with stories about me and his classmates and done his homework willingly on his own. They were delighted but didn't choose to jinx anything until the year ended. I took this gift gladly and enjoyed my vacation thoroughly hoping for more "balanced classes" in the Fall.

The 2nd happened in June of 2001 as I diligently worked before and after school sessions packing up and giving away 34 years worth of accumulated teaching materials to colleagues. The office secretary buzzed my classroom to tell me there was someone on the phone who wished to speak to me urgently. Not recognizing the name, I requested she take a message and assure the caller I would get back to her as soon as possible. Apparently this caller would not be put off, so I stopped mid-task, took the 3 minute walk to the office wondering what could be so important, and picked up the phone.

After assuring this woman I was indeed the person who taught for several years at another school in the district at the specified grade level in the time frame given, she exclaimed that she couldn't believe I was retiring. When she read about it in the paper she felt she had to call and told me it hadn't been easy to track me down. I learned from her that the office personnel at other schools don't give out information when teachers transfer to new settings. Having left elementary grades for an assignment in middle school several years prior to my decision to retire, I could understand the challenge finding me must have presented.

Still wondering the reason for the call while thinking about the monumental task in which I was engaged, I tried to be patient. Eventually she identified herself as the mother of a previous student whose life she believed had been completely turned around by his experiences in my 5th grade class decades ago. As she spoke, I recalled the boy ... along with the personal challenges I faced that year coping with the unexpected death of my mom and the dissolution of my 21 year marriage. It was perhaps my most challenging year of teaching ever, and yet listening to this mother share the changes she noticed that year in her son who went from doing the minimum required to "get by" (while having fun with the "class clowns" who were his friends and idols up until that year) to taking a serious interest in learning for it's own sake ... I was touched to my core.

She went on to tell me what he'd done during the remainder of his years in school, how he'd gone on to college, and was now working in the Silicon Valley as a computer programmer ... doing very well for himself. I learned that they spoke of me and that year often with pleasure and gratitude. As I listened and thought to myself how that seemed like anything but my best year of teaching due to personal "distractions" of my life, I realized the truth of something my sister had often said to me but that I couldn't quite understand or appreciate until that moment. Whenever I would give voice to my classroom concerns, my sister would respond by saying emphatically, "On your worst day, you do more for kids than many people do on their best!" Of course, my sister loves me so it's been easy to discount her point of view. Hearing from others however DOES resonate and warms my heart remembering even now.

So ... in preparing this post, I'm reminded of how many times in my busy-ness, something from within says "slow down" and when I do, a most "perfect gift" appears ... one I might have "missed" if I had rushed on with whatever task held my attention, and gently I ask here ...

What might you be missing in your rush today?
(and if you haven't yet watched the video
I encourage you to do so now)

13 comments:

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

It makes me think of my favorite movie -- It's a Wonderful Life. We touch so many other people's lives as we journey through our own life, and we never really know who or when or how. We just live the best we can and trust we're changing things for the better.

The Dream said...

Awesome ... "slow down, you move too fast, you've got to make the moments last..."

So grateful to be aware and present - throughout the busy-ness.

storyteller said...

MP J - I just watched that film yesterday for the umpteenth time as I do every year around the holidays. 'Tis good to be reminded of what matters in life ... and what doesn't.

Dream - I love how you think in song lyrics as I do so often. We tell truth to children in nursery rhymes, fables, and stories. Perhaps we keep it alive for ourselves in the music we listen to and share. Welcome back and have fun at the basketball game no matter what color(s) you go with.

Thanks to you both for your visit and comments.
Hugs and blessings,

Kara said...

This all brought tears to my eyes. Glad I slowed down and took the time to read what you've shared here.

Mama Zen said...

Isn't that the greatest feeling? I'm a former teacher, too, and I know how moments like those really mean a lot.

storyteller said...

Kara - I'm happy you found it worth your time. Thanks for sharing your reactions.

Mama Zen - As you know, such moments don't come often, but when they do we teachers cherish them forever. A friend of mine kept a file she called "roses and thorns" ... in which she saved positive notes received from kids and parents that she could pull out when the inevitable "thorns" of negative experiences arose.

Thanks to both of you for visiting.
Hugs and blessings,

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing your wonderful story and the touching video !
I had an excellent elementary school teacher too,Lisbeth Kugler.
We have kept in touch ever since.In 1999 she invited me to stay at her house while I was visiting my home town in Berlin,Germany.A former classmate is planning our 50th elementary school class reunion in 2009.Lisbeth Kugler is 91 years old now.The best teacher I ever had !

storyteller said...

You're most welcome! I appreciate you sharing YOUR story of Lisbeth Kugler. How wonderful that you're about to meet up with your classmates from 50 years ago, and that she'll be there to enjoy it as well! I suspect you'll all have a wonderful visit sharing and listening to the stories of your lives since then.
Hugs and blessings,

Eve said...

Wonderful, inspiring stories. Shortly after my husband and I were married we moved to Elko, NV. Neither of us knew anyone there. One dear friend opened her home and her heart to me and made me feel welcome in a strange place. I told her thank you many times and promised to do something nice for her someday. She would always say, "No, just do something nice for someone else." I've tried to do that.

storyteller said...

Eve - Thanks for sharing your experience. It reminds me of neighbors WE had when we bought our 1st house years ago. What wonderful caring folks they were and what great friends they became over the years.

As for passing gifts of love and service along, I learned that lesson when going through my divorce after my mom died. I'll never be able to repay the friends who were there for me, but I've passed the love and assistance on many times over, telling the recipients to do likewise. Touch magic ... pass it on!

I guess we'll be doing Blog 365 together. Happy New Year's Eve to you and yours.
Hugs and blessings,

Sandy C. said...

Wow...thank you so much for sharing that story. What a beautiful, touching story. What a wonderful teacher you must have been :)

I loved the video....I cried when I read the letter....and I've forwarded it to a teacher I know :)

storyteller said...

Sandy – Thanks for your kind words … and for passing it on. I came across a teacher’s blog yesterday and found myself remembering what a thankless job teaching can be at times. I had a friend who kept a “roses and thorns” file where she saved “thank yous” along with positive notes from parents and students. On those days when nothing went right, she’d pull out that file and remind herself of better times.
Hugs and blessings,

Joyce said...

That was the perfect thing for me to read, Virginia. Thank you for pointing out this post to me.

All of the students with whom I work are the challenging ones, the troubled ones, the class clowns, and the students who don't do their homework. I do care about them. I do want to be useful in turning their lives around.

I am thankful to hear of dear young ones whom you have helped on their way in life. :)