I want to share an epiphany moment I had early in my teaching career. I taught ninth grade science in a school that had a high transition rate, so it was no surprise when a girl came up to my desk after class one day with a drop slip to sign.
She was a small, shy girl who sat in the back of the room. Taking little thought, I mechanically signed the paperwork and mumbled a good luck wish to her. She turned to leave but stopped at the door and ran back to me. Biting her lower lip, with tears in her eyes, she hugged my neck as a little girl would hug her daddy and said, “Mr. Prater, thank you so much for all you’ve done for me.”
You know, I’m not sure if I had ever spoken one word to that girl personally. I barely knew her name, but evidently something I had done made an impact on her. I began to comprehend just how important we teachers are in kids’ lives, more important than we many times realize.
Since then, her face has haunted me, and I made a commitment that I would never treat another student like that. I made an effort every day of my career to look students in the eye and greet them when they came into my room. I wanted to be involved in their lives and let them know that at least one adult cared about them. I wanted to always earn the respect and gratitude that little freshman girl had for me.