Extraordinary Moments

“You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this.” ~ Trace Adkins, 2007

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As the number of my tomorrows becomes increasingly fewer than the count of my yesterdays, I have become acutely aware at the speed with which time moves.

In schools, this is the time of year when we hit warp speed. There are spring sports, Special Olympic events, music concerts, drama performances, academic fairs, final exams, graduations, baccalaureate, grade promotions, awards assemblies, field days, senior slide shows, class parties, yearbook signings, and report cards.

Teachers are occupied with completing all the mundane tasks to finish the school year and prepare their rooms for the summer break. They are busy collecting textbooks, computing final grades, stowing away technology, organizing cabinets, conducting equipment inventories, planning class parties, covering bulletin boards, and cleaning out lockers – while of course keeping their students actively engaged in rigorous and relevant learning.

The mood in schools during this period is typically upbeat and positive. This is the time of year when elementary students might take a trip to the park or zoo; middle school students build and launch rockets, and high school students begin planning for athletic camps, summer jobs, and long, lazy days hanging out at the lake with friends.

It is a time for bright smiles, meaningful hugs, heartfelt tears, and genuine joy.

I recall vividly the end of my first year as a middle school teacher in 1994. Despite my youth and ten years of experience as a combat-trained Marine officer, I finished that year mentally exhausted and beaten down.  The challenges associated with teaching 140 young adolescents each day while parenting five of my own children at home seemed at times overwhelming. If not for the loving grace of my wife and the patience and mentoring of my school colleagues, I’m not sure I would have come back for year two.

I am so glad I did.

24 years later, I am blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as an educator in three different school districts. I have worked with hundreds of terrific teachers, scores of supportive parents, and tens of thousands of young children. My mind literally overflows with positive and poignant memories of thousands of faces and personalities, random events and incidents, successes and mistakes, laughter and tears, and opportunities taken and lost.

Viewed collectively, these events would strike most people as rather ordinary and routine aspects of an educator’s life. Yet, the older I get, the more I realize how extraordinary and meaningful many of these people and events truly were.

The past few decades have marked my face, silvered my hair, and chiseled my spirit, but my inner core has not changed. It is to this sense of child-like wonder that I bring a heart that has felt much, hurt much and hopefully given much. I would hope that time’s coarse touch has calmed the impatience of my youth and stretched my spirit towards greater wisdom, empathy, and appreciation for the smaller things in life.

I recognize that time’s march will not stop. I have no control over it. But I can slow my pace as I walk through the days and years I have left, which I hope are MANY!

I encourage you to do the same, especially during this important time of the year.

If you are an educator, take the time to really see and feel these special moments in the last days of school, for truly they will not pass again.

At some point in your life, trust me – you ARE going to miss this.

So, as you enter your classroom these last few days, allow yourself to bask in the joyful exuberance of children, the unrestrained laughter and unforced smiles, the genuine affection, the odd and quirky attributes, the silly jokes, and the general hilarity that children bring to our world.

Take a moment to think about how far your students have come this year.  Reflect on how the child who you had to pull from her mother’s arms nine months ago now runs to yours as she enters the classroom each morning. Notice how your students have become more independent and comfortable in their own skin. Recognize the child who can now read independently, do their math facts, write computer code, speak a second language, play an instrument, create an original sonnet, play a sport, or graph an algebraic equation. That’s all because of you – your knowledge, your skills, your commitment, your warmth, your love.  All of that made a difference … and it’s forever.

Slow the pace of your brain when conversing with those you meet and greet throughout my day. Make it a practice to listen more and talk less and to judge people (including yourself) in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances.

Delight in the simple joy that you am not alone and others are doing this life with you. And that this life as an educator matters every day.

The truth is that every ordinary moment working with children as a teacher or coach has the potential to be extraordinary. That is the power and privilege and challenge we have all been granted.

Too often, in the rush of our lives, we underestimate the power of a gentle touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a sincere compliment, or the smallest act of caring.  All of these have the potential to turn a life around.

Don’t miss out on this chance. Relish in the honor and joy of being a teacher. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to say goodbye to every child. Look into their eyes and smile.  Share with them one thing you appreciate most about them and what you will miss after they leave your class.

Then watch their face.

This can be an extraordinary thing for both of you.

You don’t want to miss it.

 

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One thought on “Extraordinary Moments

  1. Thank you for the reminder to be in the moment, Rob. Our time left is less than we have lived, and we should cherish one another.

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