October 7 – have a seat

75/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Students! How to emphasize that word? Sometimes they are amazing. Other times, they are frustrating. Sometimes they make you laugh. Other times, they make you cringe. Let’s jump back about 20 years to one of my first few years in the world of teaching. I am at Burnett in Richmond. I am teaching Marketing 11. I am getting into the swing of things and in he walks (or more like saunters 😉 ). I ask the students to take a seat on their desks not realizing that I substituted ‘on’ for ‘at’. To his credit, Mike listened, and did just that – sat on top of his desk. I saw this out of the corner of my eye and took a deep breath. Other teachers “warned” me about Mike but I didn’t care about their opinions, I would meet Mike without any preconceived notions and take it from there. Not a great start though! He sat there while I got organized and I had no choice but to now face the class. I saw him and asked him to have a seat at his desk and he said, “No, you said ‘on your desk’” and he was right! I told him I made a mistake and could he sit at his desk. He said, “No, I am listening to you”. I took a breath and asked him to come outside and surprisingly, he did. As soon as he stepped outside, he told me that we teachers were all the same judging him and I listened and then told him that I actually didn’t know him at all and in fact, by saying “we teachers” he was judging me. It went back and forth and basically Mike wanted to transfer classes but the schedule wouldn’t allow it so he had to stay in my class. First assignment and Mike kicks ass on it and he gets a perfect mark. He comes up to me and asks why? I told him that he did exactly what had to be done and a great job. He was stunned. I am guessing that he expected me to punish him marks-wise based on our interaction of the day previous. Mike fast became the star of the class. A year later, in Marketing 12, I award him with the top student at the end of the year. He comes up to me at graduation and gives me a big hug and asks me if I remember how we started out and I laugh because it’s clear as day. This is what teaching is about and Mike taught me to not judge a student, actually anyone for that matter, based on anyone else’s perception. Give them a fair chance and a fresh start and judge them based on their interactions with you. Allow them the opportunity to make mistakes and to also disregard those mistakes and allow them the opportunity to flourish. Mike also taught me that students are growing and learning and may make a poor decision but to react to it, as an adult, in the same way does not allow either to grow. Thank you Mike for impacting my teaching and reminding me that teenagers are just looking for their place. I am so fortunate to have this job. I raise a red marker for you and give you a check mark!

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