These two, very small words, when put together, can mean the most to anyone who needs to hear them. I have been teaching now for over 16 years, and every time I hear these words, it makes me smile and realise why I do what I do.
Believe me, some days teaching are really hard. There are days that you don’t want to get out of bed, but you know it will be much easier to go to work rather than have someone else take your class and “mess” them up! There are the other days when you get to the end of a lesson, and you wonder what just happened? Did they really just do that? Did that child really just ask “that” question? I can guarantee that I have been called mum, more often by my students that by me own children. I also know that some days, when you just want to go and do the shopping in peace, and you then see “that” child and you desperately try to avoid them through the aisles, only to be caught at the checkout.
But then there are the times when you see an ex student and they say those two simple words – thank you. I have had this happen quite a few times the last few years. One such time, this young man, who had a natural “crooner” voice chose to not sing songs that suited his voice for the HSC final exams. No matter how hard I tried, he just wanted to sing those pop songs, and they did not suit him. Anyway, fast forward a couple of years after he left school and I saw him out while shopping one day. He walked up to me with purpose, I was about to say hello when his first words were – “I should have listened to you, I regret not doing the songs you suggested, I didn’t get the marks I wanted”. Well, this took me by surprise, we then said hello, caught up on who was doing what, talked about his time at high school, what he was currently doing and then we parted and he said, “thank you for trying”. As I write these words, I am choking up remembering the conversation.
About three years ago, I was out with my colleagues for our usual end of term karaoke session at a local watering hole. This is something I looked forward to all term, I don’t drink alcohol, but I do love to sing! We were all having fun, taking turns on the microphone, enjoying the silliness and brutalisation of the melody that some singers tortured us with, when I young man came up to me and said, “Do you remember me?” I replied that I did, as flashbacks of his lack of effort in class came folding back to me. He was a nice young man, a guitarist, loved Blink 182 and any music of that genre. He could play quite well, but hid efforts in the school assessment tasks along the way were woeful to say the least. He then said something that really shocked me, he said, “I was XXXXhead in high school, sorry about that”. Well, you could have picked me up off the floor! I laughed, my colleagues laughed, we all remembered him, and we then had a good chat about where life had taken him. He was then in the Airforce, but said that he couldn’t do the officer training first up because his grades weren’t good enough. We had a great chat, then he said those few words, “thank you for trying to help me, I was silly to not listen”.
Let’s jump ahead to last week. My car needed something done to the clutch and I had to take it back to the dealer to get it fixed. I had trouble going through the automatic doors, I am short and they don’t always recognise my presence, really, anyway a young man came to open up and let me in. To my surprise, it was an ex student, from the same class as the ex-student just mentioned (class of 2009). We had a quick chat, as I was on my way to work and little time to waste. To my pleasure, when I was picking my car up we had a little more time to catch up. He was now the service manager, he was married and had a little 4 month old boy. We talked about some class members, who was doing what, where they were living, who was married, etc… I remember him as a good, average student, he played guitar, and he did the best he could through school. It got him where he wanted, and he is now doing well for himself and his little family. As I left, he simply said “thank you”. I left there with both a smile and a tear.
I suppose, this just means that, even though we don’t think we are getting through to our students, we are. The effects of what we do and say to these students does linger in their minds. I feel very privileged to have known these students, and I am glad I chose this career path.
This week, in the USA, it is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I just want you to remember that even though not everyone says it to you, I am sure your students do appreciate you much more than you realise. Our profession is one of the few that makes a difference to so many. Our students don’t always remember what you said to them, but they do remember how you made them feel.
From me to you
Julia from Jooya