To Mom and Diana
Author’s note: This is a bit of a different piece from our usual posts but stick it out until the end.
A Teacher With A Classroom
Despite her many urges to study engineering or architecture, my mom, a middle school math teacher for her entire career, also encouraged me to not become a teacher. Me, being the constant rule-follower that I was later became a high school teacher. I was the only one of my siblings who had my mom as a teacher and was able to see exactly how her enthusiasm grabbed hold of students, even those who struggled with math, and helped pave the way for their success
. Witnessing her teaching in action, along with several other teachers, is what inspired me to become one myself. This past weekend my mom passed away after a long battle with a variety of health issues ending with her on life support until all her four children could say goodbye.
A Teacher Without a Classroom
Eighteen months prior to that day, my mother-in-law passed away. Though not a teacher professionally, she taught her one and only daughter so much about compassion and what it looked like in practice. One of her final pieces of advice, which my wife recorded, was about the importance of always showing kindness because “that’s all you can do.” The death of my mother-in-law shook me, leaving me with regrets of not telling her more often what an amazing daughter she had raised, how my son reminds me of her all the time, and how completely thankful I am for having had the privilege of her being in my life.
Go Say ‘Thank You’
Knowing my mom’s passing was rapidly approaching, I had time to think about what I would say. At the same time it reminded me of all the other teachers in my life, formal and informal, that I had yet to express my gratitude towards. As teachers we work tirelessly at our craft, trying to reach each student and have them connect with the material in a meaningful way. If you’ve been teaching long enough there are those far too rare occasions where a student will come back and express their gratitude or write a thank you note that will fill you up and make all the meetings, grading and conferences seem manageable. In fact I have a drawer of those notes to keep me going when I feel absolutely overwhelmed, their gratitude keeps me going.
If you are reading this right now, on the Design for Change blog, it means you know the power of teachers and the change they can make in a student’s life. You were once a student too, with your own teachers, some formally inside the classroom and others whose curriculum wasn’t state-mandated. Regardless of who they are, I cannot encourage you enough to reach out to them and tell them what they have meant to you, the impact they’ve made and where you are now because of them. Don’t wait. If you can, send an email, write it on a sticky note, or go visit them in-person to let them know how important their work is.
A Song Lyric
Last Friday as the sky grew darker, my dad, two brothers, sister and I sat around a fire in my parents’ yard, the house we grew up in sharing stories of our childhood with accompanying songs in the background. The smoke from the fire seemed to wrap each laugh, tear, and ear-splitting clap from my brother upwards as if gently delivering it to my mom. There was a pause in between stories and I heard the lyrics “if there is anyway we can live without you, it’s to live with all the love that you gave” (Dispatch, One by One). I looked up and smiled.
Our teachers have given us so so much love. Let them know how much that love meant before you miss out on the chance.