As I was walking out of class last night, a Facebook message notification popped up on my phone from a parent of a former student, a mom I haven’t spoken with in years. It was a file attachment that was simply titled Score Report. Assuming it was some sort of hacked account thing, I threw my phone in my bag and decided to delete it later.
When I pulled my phone out again when I reached my car, though, I was surprised to see a personal message from the mom. Opening it, her message jumped off the screen at me:
Thought you might enjoy seeing this! Just got it today. Thought of the time you spent with him in elementary school and all the extra tutoring and help and encouragement you gave him with writing. I want you to know what a wonderful job you did, and we haven’t forgotten it!
Completely intrigued (and already starting to tear up), I clicked on the file attachment and was shocked to see a set of ACT scores that were nothing less than outstanding. I quickly replied to her message, congratulating the family and expressing how proud I am of in his accomplishments and the incredible young man he’s growing up to be.
As I called my mom and my husband on the way home and told them about the message, I couldn’t help but choke up as I thought about the significance of the email. As a teacher, I have always felt appreciated. Parents, administrators, and even the kids themselves often go above and beyond to show that they recognize the hard work and energy that goes into teaching.
What made this message so special, though, is that this child was never in my class. I had the opportunity to work with him over two summers as a tutor, supporting him in the early elementary years as he worked to keep up with the curriculum in reading and writing. I loved working with him and was disappointed when he passed through my grade level and wasn’t on my class list, but I always knew that he was in good hands with any of my colleagues. Like all of the kids I worked with, he moved out of elementary school and on to middle and high school, passing from grade to grade with a team of incredible teachers supporting him each step of the way.
The thought that keeps resonating through my mind now, though, is I didn’t know I impacted that child. I honestly didn’t. Each summer we worked together I hoped he learned from me and made some gains that would help him be successful in the next grade level. But I never expected to be considered a part of his educational story. I never thought I would be regarded as someone who was part of the team that helped him to become the academic success he obviously is now. I never would have believed that he and his family would remember me and take the time to reach out to share his success with me.
This boy and his family taught me something last night. They reminded me that, as teachers, we touch lives every day. Sometimes we know it, but often we don’t. Sometimes it’s acknowledged, but often it’s not. And no matter what, we have to remember that every interaction with every child counts. We never know the lasting impact we might have.
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday and daily during the month of March in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.