Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Difference Makers

This time of year is always bittersweet for me. Its the end of the school year, things are coming to an end and new things will be starting up soon enough. Its the end of our chaotic mornings, rushing from school to school and the power struggle over finishing homework but it is the beginning of chaotic days filled with 'what's next?' and 'just five minutes more' and sand in the house and late nights around the bonfire. Schools over and summer is just beginning.

Its also the season of teacher gifts and notes of appreciation.

As I plan for this time of year I often think about the year we've had and the people who have made a difference to my kids, the people who have really seen them as individuals and have taken the time to celebrate them, educate them and guide them on their way. These thoughts inevitably lead me to think about the difference makers from my own school days, Mr. Kennedy and his basketball-to-real-life lessons, Mrs. Goertsen and her no nonsense belief in our ability to do more and be more and Mr. Enns and his humour, compassion and realism. These are the people that come to my mind when I think of the teachers who did that little bit extra to build a relationship with us, to understand us and to motivate us.

My kids have been pretty lucky. They all had the same kindergarten teacher, a woman of compassion, humour and infinite understanding and she set the bar pretty high for the teachers who came after her. She was the one who first noticed Dude's challenges for what they were, who instilled confidence and peace in a very nervous little Crafty and who laughed off all of Mischief's antics. She is the one who still makes them feel like the center of the universe whenever they see her. She has been a friend and an ally, an encouragement and an example and a source of many a much needed chuckle for me.

Mischief is 2 for 2. His grade one teacher has been stellar. I often joke that she is like having a Disney Princess as a teacher, all she is missing is the following of friendly forest creatures! She is sweet and caring, she has inspired Mischief to work harder, do more and believe in himself in a way I didn't think was possible. She corrects his craziness in a gentle yet meaningful way and she always has time to listen to his stories and jokes.

Crafty has had some great teachers too but I think the person who really has made the biggest difference to her so far was her second grade teacher. Dude had the same teacher in grade two and I have to say that woman is magic. She had the ability to see right into Crafty, figure her out and use her strengths to inspire her to work harder on her challenges. She is quick with the heart felt praise and slow to get frustrated or upset. She is creative, engaged and has unnatural amount of energy. I have never seen her angry, I have never seen her give up and Crafty adored her.

Dude has had an arsenal of creative and engaged educators work with him over the years. His fourth grade team was the dream team. His teacher, resource teacher, educational assistant and principal did amazing things last year and I thought that there was no way we'd ever see as much creativity and personal growth for Dude in a single year again but I was wrong. His team this year has worked hard and its evident. I have a lot of respect and a growing affection for some members of his team this year but if you ask him who his favourite person in the school is he'd, without a hesitation say, it's the resource teacher.

She has been his champion, translator and a safe haven this year. She has empowered him to speak up for himself while letting him know that she would always be available if he needed her. She has encouraged him to keep trying when things got tough, she has celebrated his successes and worked with him through his disappointments. He thinks she is smart and interesting to talk to and most of all, he knows that she is always on his side.

I appreciate each of these teachers, and the many others who have taken the time to get to know my kids, to inspire them and to educate them. Not every teacher will be a difference maker to every child but I believe that every teacher has it in them to challenge, inspire and motivate every student that passes through their doors, just as every student has it in them to teach and inspire their teachers.

Thank you for all you have done this school year ... enjoy your summer, Teachers!

The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate "apparently ordinary" people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people. ~K. Patricia Cross

No comments: