The ones I never knew about
As a high school teacher, I come across students with all kinds of backgrounds, home-lives, personal situations, processing skills, similarities, and differences. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to teaching. I have to read a student and try to help them the best way that I can. I can’t reach them all and they don’t all let me in, but it is very fulfilling when I can, and they do. I have high expectations for all of my students and know that every student can reach them; some need less work, more help, more encouragement, but the success that they feel when they are doing the work themselves is incredible to see and gives them the confidence they need to keep trying.
In real-time, doing my job often seems thankless, but when I get those students who reach out to me months or years later and share with me the impact that I have had on their lives, it touches my heart. I think, “If I can help one student, the way I helped this one, it is worth it” and it keeps me going through all the tough situations and keeps me trying with each student who seems like they don’t want my help. One success leads to another, so I just need to get each student to that one success, celebrate it, and set another goal to get to more successes.
I have had students that will write on a paper in class that they “want to die.” I reach out to the counselors then and meet with them immediately and with the student and their family to try to get them the help that they need before anything can happen. I have had students who have attempted to hurt themselves and I reach out to them and try to be a mentor and someone that they can talk to when they are having issues. I try to find a common interest and talk to them about it daily or just make any comment to them to start a conversation so that they know they are seen. I have had students who years after they have graduated email me that the only reason they survived is because they knew they were coming to my class next and would see me. Those are the ones that hit me the most. The ones I never knew about. The ones I didn’t go out of my way to talk to and reach out to, but who I still reached in one way or another. I see them get married and have children and would never have guessed went through the things they did. I am so thankful that I could do something to help them, even if I didn’t know it at the time. If I can do that for just one student, I know I am here for a reason and it makes the good days outshine the bad.