Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saying "Good-bye" and "Good Job"

I was cleaning up the polyurethane and brushes at the end of the last class of the day as the bell rang to end class. A student came up to me as the bell rang and said, "Good-bye, Mr. Wiemers." This is not unusual since this has happened every day for two years. This same student never leaves my class with out making eye contact with me and saying to me directly, "Good-bye, Mr. Wiemers." Every time I respond, but I never act like I was expecting it. I always try to respond with no noticeable "tone" in my voice, other than to give the impression I was glad the student was addressing me and I was having a good day.

Today, for some reason, I recalled doing something similar when I was in elementary school and junior high. Every year on the morning of the last day of school my mom would tell me,
"Now, before you come home tell your teacher you had a good year and that you thought they were a great teacher."
Every year I did. It wasn't easy. In fact, I would almost get sick to my stomach. I would spend the last day of school worried about that moment at the end of the day (the last day of the school year) when I would have to move against the stream of kids running home for the summer. I would have to go against the current and walk back into the class room, walk up the the teacher, look them in the eye and initiate a conversation. The conversation would be focused on my evaluation of the teacher. I was going to have to compliment my teacher. This time the student would not ask a question, nor ask for help. I had done that all year long. In this case the subordinate would address their superior by paying them a compliment. Even a positive compliment indicated that the inferior student had made an evaluation of the teacher and had come to a decision:
"You were a good teacher and I had a great year. Thank you."
This was so hard to do. In the early years my voice was timid and shook with fear. But, I also remember that the teacher's face lit up every time. They seemed to actually take my compliment seriously. It was as if my words, my opinion, my judgment was heard and had left a mark. My words seemed to have made a difference.

After the last day of school I would always have to walk home alone since by the time I got my nerve up to actually enter the room, speak with the teacher and leave, the other students were long gone. I still remember the feeling, the emotional high, as I walked home. I did not understand everything, but I knew I, a mere student, had made an impact on my teacher. The teacher felt good about themselves because I said something to them about themselves. This was indeed strange territory for a young student to be treading on. It was like drinking from a cup in another dimension or speaking into a parallel universe.

Eventually my voice did not quiver and I knew, before I spoke, I was about to say something that would leave a lasting impression.

Mr. Wiemers

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