I haven't decided if this post meets #12, 13, 21, 27, 29 of the #MTBoSblaugust challenge. You can be the judge.
I recently blogged about my journey from teen parent to math teacher. In that post, I talked about a variety of factors that have helped shape the person, and teacher, I am today. Among them are having my son at a young age and, as a result, meeting Mrs. Thompson. What I didn't talk about in that post, and the focus of this post, is the importance of directly communicating gratitude to the people who influence us. As teachers, we have the opportunity to make an impact on thousands of students over the course of our careers. We help shape young lives. Yet, we rarely receive the recognition, praise and thanks we so richly deserve. Most teachers know this is just part of the job, but when a former student seeks us out to say thank you, we are overcome by a serious case of the warm fuzzies, whose powers of reinvigoration are well documented.
Anytime someone asks me about my experience as a teen parent, I tell them how Mrs. Thompson put me on my path by believing in me and going above and beyond what any of my previous teachers had. In my recent post, and in conversations, I tell how she saw me as a person with needs reaching far beyond the limited time I spent in her classroom. She took time to know who I was. She was the first person to encourage me to go to college, when others thought I wouldn't finish high school. She changed the way I saw myself and the way I view teacher-student relationships.
I've told this story many times, to many people. I even told it during a recent interview. I had an experience recently that made me realize there was someone I should really tell this story to. I was talking with a friend about a panel interview I did. She was friends with one of the interviewers. The decisions had been made and announced and she was sharing an interaction she had with this friend, a teacher in our district's program for pregnant teens. I chose not to share my teen pregnancy experience in the interview, but this teacher had come across this information after making her decision. My friend told me how touched she was. Described her as moved to tears and quoted her as saying, "One of my girls made it!" I was completely surprised by this reaction. Those of you who have heard me tell this story, face-to-face, know I do so in a very matter of fact way. For me, at least now, it just is what it is. I made my life harder than it had to be but with the help and support of those who cared about me, I made it through a very challenging period. It hadn't occurred to me that others might find my experience interesting or inspiring, or that it would elicit an emotional response.
As I said, I've told this story many times but this was the first time I "told it" to someone who reminded me of Mrs. Thompson. This teacher's reaction made me realize that until that point, I was sure Mrs. Thompson knew the impact she made. How she changed the course of my life. She didn't need me to tell her. I still believe she knew, but what changed was I realized it didn't matter if she knew or not. I needed to tell her myself, to thank her.
I set about finding Mrs. Thompson. My wonderful wife, Janet, helped me do some internet research and we were able to find Mrs. Thompson, still living in San Diego!! (On a side note, you don't want to know how quickly we were able to find her email address, home address and phone number.) I emailed her, because calling someone I hadn't had contact with in 23 years was way too scary. By the next day, I had a response and, after several emails back and forth, we set a date to meet for lunch and catch up.
The lunch date was yesterday. It was so amazing to see her. She is just as wonderful as I remember. We talked for 3 hours, sharing stories, showing pictures and taking selfies. She told me she read the blog post I wrote about her and it made her cry. Even though she read my post, and now I know that she knows how I feel, I still made sure to thank her and tell her how instrumental she has been to my success. We talked about teaching, of course.
We're making plans for her to come observe my class. How exciting!!