Second semester, I believe, is the worst semester for teachers. Second semester is the time when we reflect upon first semester and what we did and did not accomplish. We look at what we taught and have left to teach. Second semester is the time for high absenteeism due to illness and all high stakes testing takes place second semester. Weather is cold and dreary and storms threaten our precious instructional time. Facing all the pressure of ‘getting it done’ can make a teacher begin to question his or her worth. I believe second semester is the time when teachers make up their mind to leave the profession. I know I have asked myself plenty of times if I, as a teacher, matter. After Saturday, I am convinced that I do…and so do you [fellow educators].

 

Within the span of one month, I have come into contact with five former students.

Let me add a short explanation here. It will help the next few comments make sense. I am the theater coach at my school. I give my students my cell phone number so we can keep in contact for late afternoon or Saturday practices. They have rules to follow when calling me, and they usually follow them. I have only had one student in six years to break the rule.

I received my first text after the start of winter break. A former student who is a senior in high school sent me a text about getting a Sunday paper. She was listed as an Academic All-Star and she wanted to let me know. She also wanted to thank me for believing in her and always encouraging her.

My next text came New Year’s Day. A student just wanted to say “Happy New Year” and see how I was doing. I usually hear from him on Mother’s Day, Christmas, or New Year’s Day. He was right on time! He just wanted to see if I was okay and to tell me that he is on track for high school graduation. This student is special because he had quite a few behavioral challenges in middle school. He said I was one of the only people he could count on to tell him the truth and have his back.

One week after the start of the year I got a text in the middle of the day from a former student who is a sophomore. She knew she should not have been texting in the middle of the day, but she wanted to let me know about the open house at her school. She knew that some of my theater students would be interested and certainly have the talent to make it into the CAPA Performing Arts program. She also wanted to thank me for introducing her to the theater and always supporting her art.

Two days later, I saw one of my first middle school students who is a freshman at Mississippi Valley State University. His brother is a volunteer coach at our school and he was with him after school. I talked with him about how school was going for him. He was telling me about how he has to manage his time and how he was so grateful for the lessons I and his other teachers at Bellevue taught him. I told him that I could not have been prouder of him.

Saturday¸ I was at a community service project for my sorority and I was the ‘photographer’. As walked around taking pictures, I asked a young lady (who was there with her mother) if I could take a picture of her. When I took her picture, she asked me where I worked. I told her the name of my school and she said, “I remember you! You’re Ms. Allen! I haven’t seen you since second grade. My sister Ebony was in your drama class!” Although I didn’t immediately remember her, I hugged her and asked about her sister. She went to find her mom and tell her I was there. Her mother came to thank me for helping support Ebony in middle school and to thank me for helping her daughter develop discipline and focus. She said because of what her daughter learned at middle school, she was about to graduate and go to college.

As I reflected on these encounters with former students and I realized that I matter. I make a difference! So many people in governmental and educational authority judge the worth of a teacher by degrees held and test scores. They tie our effectiveness to cold intangibles such as numbers. I was told years ago by my first mentor teacher, Vanessa Randle, that I would teach much more than what was in books and state curriculum. The contacts that I have had in the past month prove Mrs. Randle right and the powers that be wrong. These encounters have encouraged me to continue to go forth and give my all when teaching. These five students have convinced me that teachers matter and I am grateful to them for their encouragement to me.

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