As a district office administrator, it’s very important to me that I spend the majority of my time in school buildings. It’s easy to lose perspective if we don’t spend time with the people who work most closely to our students. I love the walk the hallways, wave, smile, and say hello to teachers and students. This week was no exception. Except it was.
A few years ago, I served as an elementary principal in my school district, so when I spend time in the middle school, I will often here, “Ms. Lawson!” and to both of our delights, I am reunited with a former student. Honestly, there is a part of me that is holding on tightly to that feeling because there will come a time when I walk these halls and hardly any students will feel that kind of connection to me.
This past week as I walked around the middle school, peaking my head into 8th grade science classes to say hello, I ran into a former student. We both were smiling, but I could sense there was an underlying heaviness. I said, “It’s so good to see you.” He replied, “It’s good to see you too. How are you?” Such a thoughtful young man. After this exchange, he continued, “You remember my mom?” I absolutely remember his mom. I had the good fortune of supporting this student when he happened to be having a difficult year and those difficulties often presented themselves as behaviors during recess. I said, “Of course, I do! How is your mom doing?” He explained, “She died a week and half ago.”
I was stunned. I could feel the tears filling my eyes. My face was getting hot. As I gathered myself, he said, “Anyway, how are you doing?” Another how are you. He didn’t want to get into the details or talk further which I understood and seemed to want to save both of us from my emotions, so he was bringing the focus back to something casual. As we ended the conversation, I told him that I was so sorry about his mom and that I was “carrying his heart in my heart.” Words are so important and yet so difficult in times such as these.
I pushed back the tears and continued my walk through the school but now there was heaviness behind my smile and eyes. I checked in with his counselor before leaving to ensure someone knew about the death of his mother and offered to bring the student lunch and eat lunch with him if he was ever interested.
I’m still carrying his heart in my heart. This has me thinking about how educators support many students in a day and hear many difficult things. It has me wondering in their efforts to support students, how are we supporting educators? It takes big strength to step outside of the difficulties in our own lives and create positive experiences for students in the classroom every day, bell after bell. It takes next level resilience to empathize with the experiences of so many students who are fighting major battles in their life while also teaching them essential skills. The job of the educator is not getting easier and yet it seems more important than ever.
I ran into a teacher the other day between plan bells who had just gotten some difficult family news. She didn’t want to leave school. After making some space for her emotions, I offered to teach for a bell to give her a break or make her copies-anything that would help. I’ve offered to pack lunches for educators and their entire family for the week if that would give them a greater chance at having some time to recuperate.
These are not long-term solutions. I’m not saying that these offers are impressive in anyway. But what I am saying is that the best way to take really good care of students is to take really good care of educators, so they can take good care of students.
If we all did our part to take really good care of our little corner of our schools, I wonder how our schools would change. Schools are the epicenter of community culture, so if our schools change, our communities change. Enough communities start to change, the world changes.
Even if the world became 1% more kind in the next year, I think that would make a big difference in how we all feel in our day-to-day lives.
And even if I am wrong, it doesn’t seem out of reach and feels worthy of our efforts. It feels good to be good to other people. If we make just a small move this week and take a step back, I bet we will feel better. “Mosquito Moves” is a chapter in my upcoming book. Something about telling ourselves we can move small and still make a big impact feels good.
Because we all deserve to feel better.