I’d Like to Thank the Academy
Admit it; we’ve all done it. I know I’ve done it. Along with beauty pageant acceptance speeches, I have done my share of Academy Award acceptance speeches while holding my hairbrush Oscar, although not in the past 40 years. I’ve thanked my parents, my siblings, my friends, and yes my teachers. As I’m thinking about watching the Oscars tonight I started thinking about those acceptance speeches. There has been a celebrity or two who has thanked their music teacher, their English teacher, their drama teacher, etc. I wonder if those teachers were surprised to hear their names? Did they know they had influenced a future Academy Award winner?
I started thinking about this last year when a student wrote me a note, telling me that I was the only person in her life that she trusted. I had no idea. I knew her name, I talked with her almost daily at lunch commenting on her One Direction t-shirt or glittery hair bow, but I had no idea that I was “an important person” in her life. After I read that note I got scared. I was that important to someone and didn’t realize it? I only saw her maybe once a day for just a moment? What if I had walked past her one day and ignored her need for attention? Even worse, what if I had made one of those comments my principal likes to call “throw away comments”?
More recently one of my 7th graders came to me afterschool and just stood next to me while I was supervising dismissal. She asked me about my day, talked with me about running the mile during PE, and gave me a rundown of her friends and the boys they liked. When I was ready to head into the office she asked if she could follow me in and get a Jolly Rancher off my desk. When we got inside she sat down and started crying. She said she had a lot on her mind and I was the only one who ever listened to her. Me? Once again, I had no idea. She had never given me a sign that I was important to her. She sat in my office for about 45 minutes that day telling me about her personal problems and how it was difficult to concentrate at school with so much on her mind. After she left for the day, I reminded myself that I needed to treat all 900 students at my school as if I was the most important person to them or at least someone who was a consistent listener, someone with kind words, and someone they could trust.
How many students think their language arts teacher, their math teacher, or their band teacher is the most important person in their life? The only person they can trust? Do we value that trust? Do we realize what an influence we have on these children? That they hang on our every word? That we can build them up with a smile, a compliment, or with time? Do we realize that we can devastate with a thoughtless comment, a harsh word, or by ignoring?
My students may never be award winning actors or directors and they may never give acceptance speeches and thank their teachers or me. But we need to realize our importance and influence nonetheless. They might not even stand in front of the mirror, hairbrush in hand, accepting and thanking, but it doesn’t minimize the fact that we are influencing them everyday.
And for the record, I would like to thank my parents!