Hello…and goodbye.

Tonight I had the opportunity to Skype with Marialise BFX Curran’s class at St. Joesph’s University. It was made more special by the fact that one of my ex-students, Leanna Verch,  helped facilitate the conversation.

When I saw Leanna come onto the screen what I thought was interesting was that I did not remember a single thing that she did in my class–not one big thing.  But I have very distinct memories of how she interacted with her friends, how she walked in the hallway, and her interactions with me asking questions after class.  My memory of her was full of all the little things she did,and she did them great.

During the discussion it came up that I had spent some time waiting for my daughter at the airport, and Marialice BFX Curran mentioned that she had also spent a lot of time at airports watching people say hello, and goodbye.  It made me think…

I place an awful lot of importance on hellos and goodbyes with the students.  My first day is very special, my last day even more so.  I stand in the hallway to say good morning, how are you, and listen to more One Direction stories that anyone should have to.  At the end of class there is always a have a great day, see you tomorrow, what are your plans for the weekend.  Hellos and good byes are important.

I recently sat for three hours at the airport waiting for my daughter to arrive home.  I witnessed many hellos, and many goodbyes.  Some full of smiles, some full of tears, all of them important enough to be cherished. I also sat there long enough to watch all of the time in between, before, and after the hellos and goodbyes.  Many families arrived with flowers, presents, and bags of snacks to be given a gift to send some one off, or to be given as a present upon someones arrival.  At those precious moments, everyone was perfect.

After about an hour, it was the time before the hellos and goodbyes that I started to watch more closely.  The business man yelling at a co-worker over the phone, the mother threatening her kids one more time, the family who arrived early and sat down in all separate rows, the child endlessly begging for more, and more, and more. This was not airport stress, the airport stress helped reveal their true character. When it was their turn to say hello, or tell someone goodbye, everyone went back, just for a moment, to being perfect.  A moment which lasted briefly, before their true character was once again revealed.

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”
— Karl Menninger

In teaching, we tend to focus on the big things, the fancy things we do, the big ideas we have, the new strategies we put in place. They are the things we do that make us feel like perfect teachers.  In reality they are just as brief and meaningful in our relationship with our kids as all those hellos and goodbyes that I witnessed. It is all the other time we spend with kids when we are not paying attention to being perfect that matters the most, They are the moments that leave the biggest impression upon the kids we spend so much time with.  They are the moments in which we truly show the students who we are.  They will always become who we are during those times, and never who we want them to be when we are trying to be perfect. When we have a great year, it is almost never because we have done all the big things great, it is because we were great at doing all of the little things.  Whenever I have students visit they always re-tell stories from class that I never knew happened or have no memory of.  It’s always the little things that leave the biggest impressions, it’s always the things we do between the hellos, and the goodbyes that matter most.

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you laugh with Cindy who no one else laughs with, and I wanted to laugh too.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you ask  Mark who always sits in the corner to sit a little closer,
and I thought it was good to be kind and include everyone.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give a compliment to Keisha who never receives one, 
and I knew that kind words make a difference.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you pat Eddie on the back as he walked out of class,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you ask Billy why he was absent yesterday,
and I knew that you missed us when we were not in class.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw your tear when I presented, and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I LOOKED….
and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

Above poem is a rendition of When I thought You Weren’t Looking which is often attributed to Connie Black

Thanks for Megan Roux for showing me this video and making the connection between it’s message, and our skype conversation.

Do you say hello?

Here is your task. Walk by five kids at your school–not when classes are passing, but when you are by yourself in the hall and there is only one or two kids passing you. You may look at them, but you can’t say anything. Do they say hello? Please try to do this five times and let me know the results. If you happen to be a student reading this, do it with the teachers in your building, or even other students. I would like to get responses from at least five people. I have a theory I would like to blog about but need some data first to make sure my school is not the exception to the rule. I’ll even take the results from one pass, past passes, and even guesses. Also mention what grades and how many kids are in your school!

Thank you,