Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Difference We Make...

Friday, October 5th is World Teacher Day.  On this day, please take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the important work that teachers do.  With its arrival, I am reminded of a post I started last year, but never published.  Now is the time to share that post. 

At the end of a confusing and challenging year in British Columbia Public Education year, a teacher on the J.N. Burnett staff brought me the following note.  He had received it from a parent of a student he had taught a couple of times during her five years with the school.  It was an uplifting reminder of the positive impact teachers can have on young lives.  With the permission of the teacher and the parents who authored the letter, I share it here (names have been changed to protect the anonymity of all the parties involved).

Dear Mr. Johnston;
I wanted to not only express my sincerest thanks to you for being a very special  teacher to my daughter, Kirsten, for the past two years, but also to comment that you have the qualities for reaching a more challenging student like Kirsten.  Not all teachers have this talent.  To teach the easiest and brightest in the class is not tough, but to reach those with low marks and seemingly little interest and also to rope in those such as Kirsten who is not unintelligent, but who has had a lifetime of challenges due to her severe ADHD, that requires talent and caring.
Poor Kirsten has had her older brother (Jim), 10 years her elder, fly through highschool and UBC as a gifted student academically, musically and socially.  They love each other and Kirsten tried desperately to emulate him, but what a hard act to follow!  Jim never had you as a teacher, but recalls you as a TOC and remembers you fondly.
Kirsten's two biggest problems with English were reading too quickly, thus jumping words and then missing the point and much of the content.  But she always hated to go back (impatient like many of us...).  Her second big problem was editing, which you picked up on right away.
I tried for years to look at her writings and subtly make suggestions when she veered off topic or it didn't quite make sense.  But you, sir, are a teacher, and I am a nurse.  And who wants to listen to their mother, anyway?  Especially a mother who has had some serious medical issues this past year (Kirsten has many conficted and complicated feelings about this).
This year she was afraid of failing English.  But then she got you for a second time and you continued to, rather than just mark things "wrong", make suggestions or give her hints and ideas for how to make her thoughts "more correct" or "easier to understand".
You have also stimulated her interest in what she was reading in class, to the point, this year, that she would actually come home from school and tell me all about it!
The third (and probably most important) thing you did was create in her a desire to read for PLEASURE.  We are a large family of readers and to see her reading for joy (and not because she has to) is a pleasure for me and a happiness for her that is beyond words.
Little did she realize the tribute she was giving you last week when I asked her what she thought you had done for her.  She replied, "He gave me confidence in myself".  And so you did.  We can not thank you enough for instilling her love of learning and belief in herself.  You are a treasure of a teacher.  Thank you so much.

As has been stated before, "You make the weather" and teachers do make a difference.  Sometimes we don't hear it enough.  Thank you to the parent for taking the time to acknowledge the efforts and to the teacher for making such a positive difference for students at J.N. Burnett.
 Happy World Teacher's Day!

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