I'm writing about this event because I don't cry very often, it's rare. It's not that I try to withhold my emotions, my tears just don't flow that often.
Last Saturday, I was invited to a special Boy Scout ceremony for a student who had achieved the rank of Eagle. I taught the student in the 4th grade, he's now a senior in high school and applying to colleges. To be honest, when the invitation came in the mail I started to get choked up, this kid means a lot to me. There hasn't been a student in my career that I've spent more time with. It's been eight years since he was in my class and I still think about him a lot - and I'm so proud of who he's become.
It all started when he was in the 3rd grade and I'd see him at recess or outside of his classroom because he was in trouble. I knew right away he needed to be in my class - I needed him in my class. He glommed on to me pretty quick as well, his teacher in 3rd grade wasn't very nice to him, he needed to be in my class for sure.
I can still remember that first day of 4th grade, he was the first one in line when the bell rang. Ready to see our class for the first time, smiling ear to ear, excited beyond belief - I was too!
It wasn't all smooth though, we had some major challenges with behavior, academics and self esteem throughout that year. When the first report card came out his mom was at my door right after school. She gave me a hug and said he'd never had a report card like this before. The positive comments, good grades - her son was so excited for school everyday already and now this awesome report card.
He'd earned it - sometimes all a kid needs is to have someone believe in them. To help them find their awesome that's already inside.
Coming full circle
Fast forward eight years and his mom is speaking during the Boy Scout Eagle Court ceremony. She's talking about the men in his life: dad, grandparents and then she starts talking about me. I couldn't hold back anymore and really started crying. Like I hadn't cried that much since my dad passed away a few years ago. These were tears of joy, celebration, excitement, pride and so much more.
After the ceremony I went on stage to congratulate him in person. He gave me the biggest hug and thanked me for always believing in him.
"Are you kidding?" I said, "I'm so proud of you!"
I know our paths in life were meant to cross, he needed me and I know for a fact that he's made me a better educator/person/dad with our experiences that year in 4th grade.
Educators - take the time, go the extra mile, put in the work, build those relationships, connect with kids. They won't remember what grades they earned, their scores on a standardized test or how many words they spelled correctly every Friday. They'll remember how they were treated, if they knew you cared about them, if you made school fun and exciting. It's not about the grades, it's about the relationships we build and how we make kids feel.
Be awesome for kids - they deserve it!
Adam Welcome is an elementary school principal in California. He was selected by the National School Board Association as a "20 To Watch" and his book "Kids Deserve It" is on pre-order. This story was originally published on his blog. He tweets as @AWelcome.
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