“A hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, nor what my clothes were like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child,” by Forest E. Witcraft is a quote that most teachers have seen before. I have a coffee mug with those words on it. For a teacher this quote is striking, because it reaffirms why we are teachers. Reading these words makes us feel better after having a bad day at school. However, a hundred years is a long time. It makes me ask a question, will I see the payoff?
As teachers we change lives, few would argue that point. My style, my actions, and my words affect my students. In the short term, maybe I explain a particular concept in just the right way, so even just one of my students understands the concept on the standardized test. I teach third grade in Florida, so in that scenario I may have saved a child a year of their life. They may not be retained because they missed one question on that standardized test. But, I digress… I think teachers really want to know the long-term payoff of their good works.
I believe I am the payoff for Alan Glassman, my high school special education resource teacher. I have a learning disability, so up until tenth grade I could not read even near grade level. Throughout my schooling, I struggled to comprehend grade level material. And I was fantastic at using my disability as an excuse to do the minimum. By high school I even had myself convinced that I just could not do it. I was LD, so I was stupid.
I would like to say Mr. Glassman was a ray of hope, but in truth he was more like a brick wall that I ran into headfirst when I entered tenth grade. He saw right through me. “You have the potential to do more than be an example of laziness,” he said to me. “Wait a minute, what kind of crazy teacher would say that,” I said to myself stunned. I realized later, Mr. Glassman said exactly what I needed him to say. He was the first teacher that actually saw I had potential. He was the first teacher that was straight with me. Mr. Glassman gave me the kick in the butt I needed to become successful. Mr. Glassman taught me the only way I was going to beat my learning disability, was to treat it like a block in the road that I needed to get past. It did not matter if I went around, over, under, or through it –I just needed to get to the other side of it. He made me realize, I just have to find a way.
I know I am at least one positive difference Mr. Glassman made in the world. I know he would be proud of the teacher I am now and the one I still want to be. By being straight with my students and teaching them to find their way to the other side of their blocks in the road, I am carrying out Alan Glassman’s legacy.
Image created by Darolyn Souppa.