Saturday, October 12, 2013

The power of one...

I’ll admit I was pretty bummed that Malala Yousafzai was not chosen in winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I think we missed a huge opportunity to teach young people the power of one – the power of one young woman standing up and fighting for others' educations.  She’s not a corporation, she’s not in it for the fame, and she’s certainly not in it for the money....just one young woman out to save as many as she can.  I wanted Malala Yousafazai to win for my son, and for my daughters, and for the over 300 kids who have been part of my classroom family and will always be part of my life.

But something happened last night that made me turn Malala’s mission around for some self-reflection in my own classroom.  The district that Dear Hubby and I work for played our high school Alma Mater in a Friday night “under the lights” game lastnight – purple and gold runs deep in our families – my mom and dad, sister and brother, and Dear Hubs wore multiple Varsity letters (I know you’re shocked I’m not in that list!) and lined the field clad in purple and gold.  For years the hubs would go to high school games, sometimes with old teammates & lifelong friends, and each time I’d ask, “Did you talk to Coach B?  It would mean a lot to him if you’d talk to him and maybe let him know what he meant to you.”  Answer has always been “No” or “He’s too busy for me”, “too focused on the game” or other more technical “football-ese” that I completely don’t understand (and he proudly takes advantage of!).  You see, the coach/teacher that Hubs played all four years for is still producing winning seasons at dear old THS.   After begging and badgering for years I gave up.

Last night, was different.  Bea raced into my room while Hubs was still unpacking the truck and said, “Mom, Dad went to the fence and waited for him!  He finally talked to Coach!”   Hubs came in shortly after and said, “Did Bea tell you I saw Jack?”  (me:  nodded, grinned)  “His kids are good you know.  They’re grown and ....” and proceeded to tell me every detail about the conversation including the things that he “can’t believe he remembered”.  This coach was a favorite teacher at our inner city high school; it was hard to get into his classes and I’m proud to tell you that it was t-h-e  o-n-l-y  A  I ever earned in high school and it was NOT due to my athletic prowess!  ((insert roaring giggle))  Coach B, one of Hubs’ two favorites, didn’t have to talk to him, didn’t have to make time to catch up, didn’t have to make time to talk to our daughter and ask questions, but he did – he was the one.   The thing that makes this more special is that football and these coaches were Hubs’ lighthouse in a pretty rough teenaged life.  There were so many things the coaches didn’t know he was going through.  He always brought his A game, but in turn the support they gave him got him through those tough struggles they had no clue about - he couldn’t afford a coveted gold banded, purple Varsity jacket to put his hard-earned Varsity letters on and although he was desperate to make his coaches proud and accept that football scholarship to Rutgers he was devastated that he couldn’t for reasons that were out of his control.  He went on to face adversity and I often wonder how many of their life lessons he continued to carry to get him through losing his dad unexpectedly, in his arms, at 23 and his mom not long ago, that proving himself his whole life has been a battle that he has proudly taken on; mindful of each struggling step.  And in one turn, one conversation, Coach B has no idea the impact that he once again made on my dear Hubs’ life – because he was the one, the one who was there then and the one who was here now.  He took just a few moments.  He retaught and rehashed and reaffirmed every life lesson he taught my guy some (gulp) thirty years ago.  And he doesn’t even know the power his words and his integrity have.

As I crawled into bed, Hubs fast asleep with what seemed a small smile on his face, I wondered if I have made that kind of difference to the kids who have crossed my path.  Do “my” kids get together with old classmates and tell stories and share memories about my classroom?  Does that child who has moved on know that I’d do anything for them?  Did I teach each day with such integrity and strength that my kids KNOW that I will always have time, that they will always matter?  Does each of my kids know with their entire being that their self-esteem, self-worth, their view of themselves as learners is WAY more important to me than a test score? 

I truly believe we’re about to make a huge mis-step.  I truly believe that we need to take back control of what we know is best for kids and best for their learning.  That it’s about WAY more than an effectiveness rating.  That it’s about WAY more than how the education department and media portray me in the news.  That it’s about intrinsic, real world lessons and not about modules made by an education reform corporation.  That it’s about me getting down and dirty to make a difference for one child in my room.  That it’s about me making a difference on the day that a child is at their worst.  That it’s about me standing up for what’s right for my kids & classroom when others just want me to sit down and be quiet. 

As Malala Yousafazai said, "I speak not for myself but for those without voice ...”  Thanks Malala, I’m going to be that one and thank you for being that strong, young woman to stand up and show the world strength & power & courage and the difference one can make.

And thanks Coach B, from all who have crossed your path (and for my only A!), but especially for what you've done for my’ll just never know your power of one.

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