A decade ago I was a senior in college. Yes, I was 34 at the time. It was my second go around at college. It was my final semester at the University of Toledo to complete my degree in art education. A single mom of 4 children under the age of 10, working and going to school full time, life at that time was certainly a challenge. One day, during a particularly difficult time in this last semester, I was late for a class. Unfortunately it was a class that had a guest speaker. The regular teacher of the class understood my personal circumstance, but the guest speaker did not. When I arrived 10 minutes late, apologetic, breathless, and embarrassed, she proceeded to condemn and make an example of me and how unacceptable and rude it was that I was tardy. I already felt horrible about being late, she didn't need to make an example out of me to my much younger peers who did not know or appreciate what I was going through or my circumstances. After that, I vowed to never, ever, to call out my students publicly after what that teacher did to me. Until now, I didn't really think of the event, but after seeing her name flash before me on Facebook, I realized I will never forget.
Recently, I stumbled upon this teacher in a mutual group on a social network site. I was surprised to see her name there and the memories of that class flashed before me. Angry at first, for the shame she tried to bring to me, I thought of ways I could view the experience in a different way. The only way I could think of was to inform others of how a single meeting, single circumstance, single opportunity, can impact a life forever. I could have let her destroy my determination, or I could persist. In my fragile condition at the time, something like that could have made me quit school altogether; perhaps another student would have. Instead, it made me more sensitive to how I approach each situation and my students, "my kids".
The other day, a new "kid" came into my life. He was timid, scared, shy, and insecure. I was instantly transported to the day I was "called out" for being late. At first, I took him under my wing, but realized that he needed to be with his peers. It seems that they realized this as well. I was amazed at the other students that welcomed him and assisted him in this situation. Forgive me for being obscure, but I do not want to give too much information to protect them, but suffice it to say, I'm so proud of my "kids".
It's amazing how we remember the details of situations such at this. I thought I had pushed it far into my subconsciousness. For all of you teachers out there: do not forget what an impact you make on those you teach. Every word is important, every word matters.