This article is dedicated and in memory of my very first student, Sgt. Okan Murat Cetinbag. In the picture above, he is the child under the cursive 'O' on the board. He sat next to me for most of his 4th grade school year; he was a charming, happy and wonderful young boy who was always smiling. He inspired me to be a better teacher-to not judge, to not label and to see that every child is special, unique and talented. Almost a year ago today, Sgt. Okan Cetinbag lost his life. I never forgot him.
(Okan pictured with his wife).
Teachers have great impact in our lives, and as in any field, there are those who do not stand out, non-effective teachers-and then we have teachers who can move mountains for our youth.
Effective teachers can inspire great change with one sentence- "I believe in you."
The late and great Dr. Rita Pierson gave her first TED talk in May of 2013, Every Kid Needs A Champion. Dr. Pierson was the epitome of an effective educator. In her bio, it is written: Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, "They don't pay me to like the kids." Her response: "Kids don't learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.
Because I am a teacher (not in the classroom at this moment), I had the privilege to be inspired by youth, to connect, to make a difference in the lives of others-and there is no greater gift.
As educators, we create relationships with our students that can carry through generations. We have the greatest privilege, the highest levels of responsibilities, and most of all, we give and receive the greatest gifts-the opportunity to help build the future in so many countless ways.
Because I know how challenging life can be without an education, I chose to become a teacher.
My students inspired me when I was teaching 4th grade and continue to inspire me today. I have a long list of inspiration from my students, and this list will grow and be with me forever.
My students inspired me to:
- Read, write and learn more
- Learn about other cultures and ways of the world
- Raise the bar of expectations and work hard for those amazing "ah-ha" moments-yes, the light bulb went on
- Understand that my words can forever affect and change their lives
- See that learning never ends
- Give back
- See the humor in little things in life-the joyous moments we can take for granted
- Smile and laugh
- Notice how small changes can lead to enormous results.
- Understand that change can begin with every one of us
- Empower my students to succeed and understand that one person can make a difference in the world.
- Become an advocate and mentor
- Be grateful that I was able to spend my days with the future
- Become a nurse, a cook, a psychologist, an ear to listen, a guide and a role model
- Bring rays of sunshine for those who don't receive these rays of light at home
- Teach life lessons filled with compassion and empathy
- Have the privilege to see young minds begin to read, write add and subtract
- Tell stories that enlighten and engage
- Become an ESL teacher, so I could provide a solid and safe place for kids who came to the United States. Many of my former students were middle school learners (ages 11-13) who had never been inside of a classroom
- Care-about little things and big things
- Wipe tears, encourage, support and believe
My students helped me to be a better person-inside and outside of the classroom.
I am grateful to know I affected many students throughout my career in positive ways.
Thank you so much for all of your support! I know that it would not have been possible without the immense efforts you have put behind me! -From a former student I taught in 4th and 6th grade. He is in medical school now.
My greatest career achievements have been through my work in the classroom. There is nothing better than making a difference in the lives of children, sparking enlightenment, believing in them and guiding them toward the path of success, confidence and compassion.
Have you been inspired by a current or former teacher? Please share your story!
Please follow me on Twitter at: @RobynDShulman