Thought that title would make you want to read further.
What a wonderful week I’ve just had!
All of us in our chosen careers get rewards from what we do. The car mechanic, at least mine, has the pleasure of seeing the weld that he did on a broken door or a broken muffler last for months and perhaps years. The singer or actor hears the applause of the audience. The cook sees the empty dinner plate.
But few can equal the exquisite feeling the teacher at any level feels when an ex-student comes up to him and says, “You made a difference in my life.”
The teacher realizes that isn’t true for all his students, and perhaps there are those for whom his impact was negative, although he hopes and prays that isn’t true. But when he meets a student later in life who obviously sincerely makes that statement to him, winning the lottery must be a great deal less satisfactory.
I’ve been fortunate in having it said to me on many occasions and I believe they meant it.
If you, the reader, are among those for whom the opposite is true, please don’t write and tell me. You will destroy what is, at the moment, a very inflated ego. On the other hand, you will receive a rather sincere apology.
Last week was Come Home Year in Springdale. What a marvelous time we had! And while I’m at it, please allow me to congratulate those responsible for the planning and the carrying out of those plans on a job really well done. I know from the remarks of those who came home from as far away as Vancouver and Europe and Haiti (love you, Karen!) that your efforts were well worth it.
You readers will forgive me if I drop my well-known cloak of modesty and say that I really appreciate the comments that were made about my writing.
Had I thought about it beforehand, I would have carried a little tape recorder on my person and asked the many thousands (OK, hundreds. Would you believe two or three?) who said they read my books and columns all the time. I would have forwarded those tapes to my editors with a strongly worded request for a raise. I may do that, anyway, without the tapes.
However, I have to say it was the totally unsolicited remarks about the effect my teaching — and even my actions as a principal — had on their lives that moved me profoundly.
Now take note, you administrators. I heard remarks such as this:
“Remember that time you suspended me from school for smoking in the washroom? You even told my parents. Man, did that ever make me straighten up!” followed by a good-natured laugh and a hearty handshake.
“I remember when almost everyone wanted me kicked out of school, but you said you saw potential in me and refused to do it. I never forgot that you stood up for me, and just look at me now!”
“I want you to know how much I appreciated it when you took the time to talk with me and tried to understand the difficulties I was having.”
I loved being a principal and working with gifted teachers and great staff. But it was in the classroom that I was given the opportunity to work with beautiful young people at every level of ability and every kind of personality and help them realize they were special. Some of them were extra special.
One of them had a lovely voice, but wasn’t interested at all in school. She became a beautiful singer to whom everyone loves listening. We are still really good friends.
I got along especially well with students who were a bit of a handful, perhaps because I was a bit of a handful myself in school. I remember as a student being strapped (with three others) by the school principal, who has since passed on. The other three were vocally bitter and resentful after we left school that day, but I said nothing because I had learned something I never forgot.
For the life of me I cannot remember what it was we did, but that’s not important now. It was what he said after he strapped me, the last, that has remained with me to this day.
“Eddie,” he said, “I knew the other fellows might do this, but I expected a great deal better from you.” It was the “I expected a great feel better from you” that changed my attitude and my behaviour. From then on, I knew, right or wrong, that he regarded me as someone special.
Even more important, I saw something special in him. He never had a problem with me after and we became good friends. I don’t think I would have graduated from high school without him.
Omigosh! I’ve almost forgotten the rest of that week and I’m running out of space.
A very beautiful woman came up to me at a party towards the end of the week. She looked at me thoughtfully. I knew that there was no way I could forget someone who looked like that, but for the life of me, I could not remember her name. Please God, I said to myself, help me remember. And God was there. I won’t say it, because she might not want me to, so I’ll say another of my favourite names instead.
“Elizabeth!” And it was.
And then she said that I had had a great influence on her life at a time when her life was very rough, and I gotta tell you, I rose six feet off the ground.
Among them all were old friends — and old teachers, many of whom I heard the same thing said about by their students — and wonderful friends who were neither students nor teachers nor looked old.
I love you all.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in
Springdale. His email address is email@example.com.