They Will Remember How You Made Them Feel!


Just One of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days when you asked yourself, “would it ever end?”, well, Friday was one of those days for me!

My day began with more than a bit of nervous anticipation. The day before, in school, someone had written some words on a bathroom wall that were not what we expect of our students. The words, given the events of the past few weeks, are the type that make adults, charged with the safety of our young people, stand up and take notice. So, as I was leaving my house, getting ready to drive in the Boston rush hour traffic, my mind was back at school.

I was going to Boston, (Newton, actually) to attend a conference on bringing technology to our schools in a more positive and constructive way for our students and our staff. There were going to be some very interesting sessions for Principals that had me excited about attending, even though I knew the time and aggravation of the notoriously heavy traffic and prototypical Massachusetts drivers (in Maine, we have a very special name for them!) would be considerable, the idea of attending this workshop far outweighed the prospect of fighting the Mass(__) drivers and the heavy traffic.

I will say that the workshop was all that I had expected, and more. I was able to meet some very creative people who are doing some really amazing things in their schools. However, as I was listening to each presentation, I had my cell phone firmly in my hand, ringer on low, hoping that it would not ring!

A little after 1:00, I receive a text message with a picture, that sets the day in an opposite direction and communicates to me exactly what I had hoped would not happen.

Being so far away, there was not a lot I could do except trust that my assistant would handle it, and she did so in a very professional and calming fashion. She followed our training to the letter and finished the day with all of the kids safely dismissed, at the normal time, and sent home. She made sure that the local authorities had been contacted and that she followed their advice. All done with an eye toward keeping the kids safe, not creating a panic and with excellent communication to our families.

So, while I was very pleased by the way our faculty, staff and students responded to the situation, I was incredibly disappointed that one of our students would feel that this was an OK thing to do in our school.

I know that I will sound arrogant when I say this, but this is not what we have come to expect of our students. We are always reminded our how great our students are when they go out in public. We had a group of students go to Washington, D.C. this past vacation, and the reports that came back to us were all very positive. When we have guests come in to our school, they always comment on the behavior of our students in positive ways. We have students win local and state academic competitions and most recently, our school was in the news for winning a year-long ecology challenge.

I am very proud of our school and our students and I am not afraid or ashamed to let everyone know this! The events of the past two days are so contrary to our norm, it is very disappointing and frustrating.

So, my drive back to Maine from Newton, complete with the heavy traffic and those wonderful Massachusetts drivers (do they put turn signals in the cars sold in Massachusetts?), was a tad more edgy than it probably would have been. I think there are some Mass drivers who finally understood they messed with the wrong Maine driver, but I did keep the “language” inside the car and did not use any “hand signals”.

When I got back home to Maine and began to settle in to my weekend routine, I found that my brain could not get away from the events at school. As I was mucking out the stalls for my horse, my mind was on who could have done this! Clearly, I was frustrated to the point of agitation!

So the bets way to clear up the condition of “agitation” is a visit from my two best friends Ben and Jerry! Alas, we did not have any in our freezer so that meant a trip to the store.

This is where my day changed even more dramatically that it did when I got the text message at 1:00!

After losing the debate with myself about why I shouldn’t go to the store to get ice cream, I got into my car and drove to the local store. The entire trip downtown, about 5 minutes, I am muttering about my school and who would have done this unthinkable thing to all of us, especially me.

In the parking lot, I carry forward my “attitude” of driving in Massachusetts as I complain, to myself, about how people drive in the parking lot. Clearly, my trip to visit my friends Ben and Jerry has now reached critical levels!

I walk into the store, eye blinders secure, my mission clear, head to the freezer section and do not engage anyone! I am resolute to complete this mission successfully when I am interrupted, mission interruptus, how could I let this happen? I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye. I could tell he was coming for me, but I’ll be darned if I could recognize him. I am hoping I am wrong, maybe he’ll walk by me.

He doesn’t. He says to me, “did you use to teach social studies?” By now I have to look at him, but his face is not bringing me a name. I answer, “yes, did I have you (you poor unfortunate soul!), I can’t put your name to your face”.

He looks me straight in the eye and then says “you probably don’t remember me, I was kind of a pain. I’m Mike ____”.

You know how some interruptions can really ruin your day, even a day that has been going really bad to begin with? Well, this was not that kind of interruption. This was the kind of interruption that turned my day, my attitude 180 degrees into a positive direction.

Mike was the student who helped me as a teacher far more than he thinks I helped him. I remember Mike everyday I go into school, each and every day.

He’s correct, he was a handful. Mike was a kid that traditional school wasn’t right for. First of all, Mike was a kid who believed that if you didn’t treat him “right”, he wouldn’t treat you right. Of course, he would also work to push your buttons and get under your skin. He knew when and how he could get you to react with minimal effort on his part. He was absolutely the best at getting teachers to react to him. The result was that he would get sent out of class, which is exactly what he wanted.

I was never a fan of kicking kids out of class and he learned that rather quickly, not that he didn’t keep trying.

The long and the short of this chance encounter with Mike was that when he saw me at the store he said he just wanted to say hi and to thank me for “being nice to him”. He could have walked passed me, I don’t think I would have recognized him. He would have just been another stranger in the grocery store aisle. Could he have sensed that I needed a positive intervention?

Finally, I am reminded of something I read about teacher, students may not remember what you taught them, but the will remember how you made them fell.

Thanks, Mike for turning my day around and for all of the great lessons you taught me about teaching.

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