Friday, January 4, 2019

The Gift of Affirmation

Christmas break has been a much needed gift for this teacher who doesn't believe in counting down the days yet really struggled not to count down the days. (That's another story for another day.) So against my lower back's better judgment, I've literally lived on the couch for two weeks and read sixteen books. Call me crazy or amazing. Either one. 

But long after I've forgotten the characters and plots from the many books I've inhaled (which doesn't take long), I will remember with fondness the email I received on the morning of January 2nd from the grandmother of one of my students. As a past elementary teacher and principal, she's been following our classroom journey and watching her grandson's growth, both emotionally and academically. And among other things, she wanted me to know, "You are the teacher I would love to have hired for my school." 

Affirmation. It's a priceless gift. 

Though I, like all teachers, basically put my life on hold for nine months in order to teach the little people in my care and do it without an expectation that the world will acknowledge my sacrifice or expertise, it is so gratifying to be noticed. Affirmation encourages, sustains, and even heals. In fact, it leaves behind a much longer list of beneficial adjectives than I have space to mention. Maybe that's why Mark Twain once said, "I can live for two months on a good compliment." 

I'm hoping I can stretch mine into five. 

As much as I yearn for affirmation, I understand the need to give it. My superintendent is accustomed to hearing from me when I want to brag about the amazing people at my building. She's not the only one who's received emails regarding my principal, instructional coach, or even custodian. I've made it a practice to speak up about the excellence I see. (It's when I'm quiet that, well, there might be a problem.)

I say all this as a challenge to whomever might be taking the time to listen. Notice. Speak up. Call out the greatness, and why not share with the boss while you're at it? That person doing her thing with excellence most likely isn't looking for a pat on the back, but if she were to get one, she might just have found the strength to continue on for another two months or possibly five.

P.S. As I was writing this post, I was reminded of one of the mothers of a previous student. She's an expert at affirmation. She regularly sends me stories - stories of how my words and love from over two years ago still impact her daughter. Wow, am I blessed. I hope to be more like her someday.

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