Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Finding the positive

I'm not going to write a post highlighting the crap of 2016. I don't need to, because we all have our own pains from this year. We don't need this post to rehash more of those feelings that we can simply find in watching a news broadcast or in reading the headlines of any news source. 

So, I want to talk about a highlight of mine that I keep coming back to that needs to be shared. I have the privilege of working as a teacher to over 100 students a year. That means in the last 12 years I've at least touched the lives of 1200 different people. That means there are 1200 individuals with whom I've had the honor to share life experiences. My goal each year is to make those as positive as I can, so that I can do my part in shaping the world in which my family and I live. And I know that I have my good moments when I get the thank you notes, or the after school drop-in visits, or the facebook friend requests to let me know that I'm having the positive influence I strive to have for my students. 

The crazy part is that too often I have focused on my role as a force of positive energy for my students that I failed to open myself to all that I can learn from them. There are so many stories of strength, bravery, and inspiration that run through the lives of my students that in the hecticness of a school setting they don't get to share, because I simply don't give them the opportunity to do so in my math class. 

But on this one day about a month ago, I stopped a student (we'll call him Joe) at the start of class to ask him a question. I had grown curious to understand the story behind his relationship with a student that is part of our intensive resource program. This student has figured out Joe's schedule, and used the passing period to wait for Joe outside my room. My other students all say to the boy using his name, and giving him hi-fives...which is already awesome. But Joe gives the boy a hug each time, and spends a minute talking with him, before making sure he gets back to his class. 

After their exchange this one day, I asked Joe how he knows the student. There are always moments where I'm prepared for an answer, but I didn't see his coming. Our exchagne went as such:

Joe: Mr. Mach, he's good friends with my brother. My brother has down syndrome as well, and he comes over to our house to hang out.
Me: Oh. So, does your brother go here too? 
Joe: No, he will next year. He's in 8th grade now. 
Me: Are you excited to have him here in school with you next year?
Joe: Well.. <hesitating> No. I really don't like what they do here. It actually makes me very upset to see how they treat the students in the program. They are so much better than trash collectors. They're treated like they can't do anything. Sure it's good that they learn life skills. They need those. I know that. But, my brother didn't even know consonants and vowels, Mr. Mach. I taught him those in 15 minutes. He knows the difference now, because of me. Not the schools. They deserve so much better. 
Me: Wow. I really appreciate how passionate you are with this.. are you thinking of pursuing a career in this?
Joe: I know that I could do a better job right now. But, yeah. I really believe in these kids, and I know that I can be a voice for them that they need. 

 The conversation wrapped up shortly after that, and I did all I could to hold in the tears of pride and appreciation I had for Joe in that moment. As I mentioned above, I've worked with so many kids at this point, and I have 5 of my own.. and it's that passion I heard in his voice that all kids deserve from the adults around them. It's that drive for positive improvement I found echoing through all he was saying that pushed me to see that we're all okay. While we want to hear, and believe that the kids these days are not as connected to the world around them, I see examples like the one with Joe that prove that kids these days are just as remarkable as we need them to be. So, I'm ready for 2017 knowing that we will get through all that is thrown at us. 

Please help shine the light on the positive by sharing this uplifting story as well as one from your year. 

Thank you all of being a part of my Teacher Dad world and cheers to a safe, productive, and family centered 2017!  

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