Extraordinary Acts

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the amazing things teachers do, often almost without thinking. While working on my latest project, a book about behavior challenges, I’ve been interviewing some experienced teachers about how they managed challenging situations over the years. I’ve been moved to tears by stories of courage and ingenuity that they told somewhat casually, as if what they did was no big deal.

For instance, one person recalled a time when she was pretty badly beaten up by a very large fourth grade boy. Of course, this was a serious incident, as it involved a physical attack on a teacher, but what struck me was the empathy my colleague was able to show despite being hurt. She told me this story with such obvious affection for this child, who had many issues and special needs. On the day in question, he became angry with another student. Probably without thinking, the teacher stepped between the two and took the brunt of the student’s anger. After the student had expelled some of his anger and realized that he had hurt his dear teacher, it was she who consoled him in his heartbreak. As she said, “We hugged it out.” Then, she went to be treated for her injuries.

Another person told me about how she once had a parent-teacher conference by going through a McDonald’s drive-thru over and over so she could talk with a parent who was working at the window. She had not been able to reach this parent any other way. To someone like me, this approach might have had some extra bonuses, like an excuse to buy lots of french fries and shakes. But, this teacher is a vegan who, I’m pretty sure, never touched whatever she ordered that day. Her laps around McDonald’s were purely in service to her student and the student’s family.

These stories brought to mind others I’ve heard or seen over the years. I know teachers who bring breakfast for students who wouldn’t eat it otherwise. Many teachers I know buy books for their classroom, just because they think one child or their whole class will like them. Several colleagues I’ve taught with over the years call children when they’re absent to make sure they are okay; others spend their free time going to current and former students’ birthday parties, sporting events, or religious ceremonies.

And these teachers’ stories made me think about all of you and the many ways you help students and their families. I’m pretty sure that, like the teachers I know and have been interviewing, many of you take care of your students and their needs in extraordinary ways without a second thought. As you leave for the summer, I hope you will stop and remember some stories of your own. Maybe even tell someone! It’s hard for people who are not teachers to truly appreciate all that you do and how far beyond the “call of duty” you go. Thanks again for all that you do. You really do make a difference.

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Challenging Behaviors, Empathy, Family Connections