Gratitude and happiness are expressed in many ways. To me, they were revealed in a tea bag: a small, thoughtful gift to say, “thank you”.
I work with second graders in a public elementary school. While I am a certified elementary education teacher, I am currently employed as a special education paraprofessional (assistant) and I am working with a student in a general education classroom who has special needs. While most of my day is dedicated to that student, there are times when he is out of the room to receive other services. At those times, I try to help other students who may need attention.
One of the students who benefits from my assistance is a lively girl who struggles with reading. I’ve been working with her on recognizing sight words and on sounding out words. She gets frustrated sometimes when she reads to me; it can be a real blow to her self esteem to make attempts and just not get it. In addition, this little one struggles with ADHD and is frequently off-task, or arguing or playing with the partner who sits next to her. This draws a great deal of negative attention to her from the teacher and lands her into trouble. Often.
This child has so much energy and can be inappropriate at times, but there is something very sweet and positive in her, and when she smiles, I can’t help but smile too. She also has a way of trying to get what she wants. For example, she likes the wintergreen mints that I stash in my book bag. I try to get what I want too, using the mints as incentive or reinforcement. I don’t often give away my mints, but there is something about this vibrant, whirlwind of a child that makes me give in, and in the process, we are building a connection.
On Tuesday, while she was waiting for her bus to go home, I had the chance to test her reading. She did very well that afternoon – very few errors – and she felt so good about herself. I let her know how proud I was that she made her best efforts and that she was improving. She was beaming. This child, who so often is corrected for misbehavior, had a successful moment and was being praised for it. You know that feeling you have when you know that you did something right? That’s how she felt on Tuesday before she went home.
Now her bus was called and it was time for her to leave. She walked over to the desk from where her teacher was sitting and said goodbye and “Thank you Mrs. L. for teaching me”. Then she came to me and thanked me too. We were touched by her thoughtful words. How often, and from how many students, does a teacher hear “thank you”?
Then she said, “Wait, I have something to give you.” From her book bag she pulled out a tea bag to hand me. She handed one to Mrs. L., too. I was surprised that she was carrying tea bags with her to school, and I never did find out why. But when she gave me that tea bag, it could have been all the riches in the world, because that small gift was from her heart. It was her happiness. I can’t say how Mrs. L. felt that afternoon, but I went home feeling energized and affirmed. Something we are doing is touching that child and giving her the opportunity to experience success, and she wants us to know that. Like I said, gratitude and happiness are expressed in many ways. 😉
Beautiful! I hope that child becomes an energetic leader one day and remembers to share this moment with others.
Thank you for sharing that wonderful story! You did a great job explaining the difficulties that students face in the classroom, and also how they want to achieve, no matter what they bring to the classroom. For many it is difficult to overcome handicaps and stay focused and positive about their learning environment. Thank you for making a difference in the life of this child.
Thank you for your warm, heartfelt response. I think that the children make a difference in my life, too. I learn so much about what is important in life when I share my day with kids. And I learn more about myself and what I truly value. It’s a mutual teaching/learning experience!
I actually had a similar experience as a student the other day! For one class, we had to turn in a paper. The next class time, our teacher handed back our papers and told us that we as a class did not do well and had to redo the papers. He gave reasons why, and I had that all-familiar feeling of “well, you screwed something up again..”
When I looked at my paper, it said on the top “very, very good.” and there were only two minor corrections made. After class, I went up to my teacher and asked him if there was anything else I needed to correct. He told me no, and that my paper was the only one that did not have to be rewritten, and that he was impressed. I thanked him and quickly went out the door.
While this may seem like a minor story, it actually made my day. Not because I did not have to rewrite my paper, but because someone took the time out of their day to tell me that I did well and impressed them. It often isn’t the work that gets you down, it’s the lack of encouragement and negativity that surrounds you day after day. Words can have such an impact, and it doesn’t matter what age you are for them to matter.
I’m glad you had that experience. You’re right – words can make a great impact. Positive words can have the power to move and encourage people to achieve beyond what they thought they were capable to do. I’m sure that your teacher appreciated that you approached him too. You made the effort to be conscientious and to make a personal connection. That works for you and it gives your teacher feedback, too.