Let me preface this post with a little background information. I teach 8th grade English, which may or may not be relevant to many of my future posts.
J. transferred into my class about a month after school started. He was a very quiet, reserved young man who only spoke to me if I spoke to him first. This same behavior continued throughout the school year. J. was so quiet that I found it difficult to build the kind of relationship with him that I had with my other students. There were a couple of instances when some of the other boys in his class provoked him to the point of extreme anger. Obviously, I stepped in and forced all of the boys to calm down. J. was always very respectful toward me, even when I was reprimanding his behavior, but I always got the feeling that he just didn't like me.
On the last day of school, before J. walked out of my classroom, he slipped a folded-up piece of notebook paper into my hand. I wondered what the paper was, but I just put it into my pocket because I had some other things to do.
Finally, after the last bell of the year rang, I sat down at my desk to reflect over the end of my first year of teaching. I remembered the note in my pocket and decided this would be a good time to read it. I opened the note and was stunned by the words in front of me:
I will miss you next year. Thank you for helping me when I was about to make a bad decision. You're like a second mom to me.
Wow. Tears flooded to my eyes. Out of all of the students who had proclaimed the impact I had made in their lives, I had never expected these words from J., which made them all the more meaningful.
We never know when we're making a difference, do we?