Tomorrow marks the end of the most difficult year I’ve had in 26 years as an educator. I will shed tears tomorrow, not of sorrow at saying goodbye to another group of kids, but those that come from being emotionally spent and utterly exhausted.
My hands have been full this year with several students who required a myriad of interventions, systems, schedules, and documentation. I used every management tool in my toolbelt and acquired new ones along the way. I feel like most of my tools have been put through a grinder and spit back out. A few of my students with high needs made progress, but still have a long road ahead of them while others are still on square one. Many days I wondered, “Do these kids even care that I’ve worked so hard to help them? Do their parents even give a rip? Am I making any difference at all?”
After school today, the parents of one of my students approached me. His father held out his hand and said, “In case I don’t see you tomorrow, I want to thank you,” at this point he had to swallow back tears before he continued. “For all you’ve done to help our son. We appreciate all the hard work you put in. It means a lot to us.” As I wiped tears from my own eyes, his wife hugged me and said, “We know that it’s tough with our son, but you are the only teacher who has actually cared about him.” Then their son gave me a hug and as I hugged him back, I told him that I love him and am proud of his progress this year. I encouraged him to keep working at things and make more progress next year.
These parents could have given me any myriad of gifts: a candle, coffee mug, Starbucks card, or any other “teacher-gift,” but their words put new wind in my sails. I told them that that they have no idea how much their words mean to me and reassured them that I love their son and consider it an honor to have been his teacher. Their gift of a genuine, heart-felt thank you was the best gift they could have given me.
Is there someone in your life who could benefit from your heart-felt words of gratitude? Don’t delay my friend. Fill their sails with fresh wind. It may be just the push they need to make it through one more day.