How much do we notice as we go through a day? What do our students notice and remember about us and what they learn from us? As we prepare them to be college and career ready, maybe we should consider also our impact on making them consideration and compassion ready.
One Teacher’s Impact
As I reflect on this topic, I’m reminded of a story I heard shared by Lisa Beamer on Good Morning America. Lisa is the wife of Todd Beamer who said, ‘Let’s Roll!’ and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington, DC September 11, 2001. She said it’s the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him. Lisa recalled this story about a teacher who had a special impact on her own life:
I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.
With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, ‘Class is over. I would like to share with all of you a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment.’ Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on, ‘So, I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn’t have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please look for these things and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the “stuff” of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.’
The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.
Take Notice of Something Special Around You Today
Go to the playground and listen to the conversations during play. Eat lunch at the cafeteria with students instead of in the teachers’ lounge. Try a new way of learning something with your kids – help them feel like the experts and see their faces light up. When I look back at my classroom experiences one day, it won’t be the things I did do that I might regret, but the things I didn’t do. Now when I am out in schools, I try to take the time to notice the rooms, the students and the teachers – trying to focus on something good can often act as a moment of meditation in an otherwise crazy day.
When we notice everything (or as much as we can carve out the time to notice), it makes us open to more. Helping students learn how to make room for these ideas leads them to being compassion driven and consideration focused. When your students have left, they are less likely to remember the facts that you taught them than they are the way you made them feel about themselves and the world around them. Ultimately, those are life lessons that will have a huge impact for us all.