What they didn’t tell us about teaching
There are so many things I love about being a teacher. While the pay is not always indicative of how much we educators pour our hearts into our students, the non-tangible fringe benefits are out of this world. The opportunity to see a student master a topic that previously caused them to struggle is amazing. To see a scholar tackle a problem in a new and creative way is awe inspiring. Watching your students grow into incredible people who are truly making an impact in the world is breathtaking. And then there is what happened at a burger restaurant . . . that completely caught me off-guard.
I recently took my university students to their first professional conference. Thanks to the generous work of a colleague’s grant and the devotion of the science department, outside of paying for a couple meals, my future science teachers were able to attend the two day event for free. After seeing the long lines at most restaurants, my little group decided to head to a “Five Guys Burgers and Fries” for our evening meal. When we got up to leave, I realized that a darling young woman whom I had taught in middle school and her significant other were also there. As my group was on the way out, I stopped by the table to say hello. When she introduced me to her beau, I was humbled by her word choice, “Jeff, this is Miss Stevens, my absolute favorite teacher!”
Wow! What an introduction! As my group loaded up in the van to return to the hotel, one of my students whom I had hoped to inspire with the energy and enthusiasm known as the Minnesota Science Teachers conference blurted out, “That was better than ever earning teacher of the year!” So true, my young friend.
Forming relationships with former students and their families is just one more endearing benefit to being a teacher. Last summer, I had the opportunity to put my crafting skills to work to help one such family. I had taught two of their children and was extremely close to their third and youngest as she formerly dated my son. Over the years, our families have transformed from colleagues (the momma is also a teacher) to close friends. The oldest of their children was getting married and had her heart set on a having a chandelier for her outdoor venue. The bride could not find what she wanted, and that is where I come in.
I believe all teachers would go to great lengths to use creativity and innovative ideas to help students make knowledge their own. I guess I could say the same about sharing my talents when someone needs help. Can’t find the decoration of your dreams? Let’s see if we can put our thoughts together and make it happen. (I tell my university students all the time that we cannot teach resilience, but we can sure model it!) After some initial brainstorming, the bride’s mom, sister, and I got down to business to create a chandelier to meet (and hopefully exceed) her bridal dreams. We spent countless hours shopping and crafting, but in the end, the finished product was more than worth it.
First we found the perfect chandelier to “up-cycle”. It may not look like much, but trust me, just like a struggling student, I saw its potential from the first moment I laid eyes on it at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Next we removed all the electrical components and spray painted it. The one thing we learned is that while Chicago may be the Windy City, it has nothing on southwestern Minnesota. We also learned you can get spray paint out of your good jeans, but that is a story for another day.
The next step was to add the flowers and greenery. A few trips to Hobby Lobby resulted in some of the best greenery, roses and faux hydrangeas to coordinate with the live ones that would be coming from the bride’s grandmother’ garden for wedding day.
The final steps were to hand string the crystal beadwork for embellishment and attach the solar crystal garden lights for the piece de resistance! Our hours spent pondering over beads in Michael’s paid off on the finished product. The lights came from our local big box hardware store.
The wedding was beautiful. The couple stunning as was their venue atop the Stillwater (MN) Public Library. It was such a picturesque evening with ideal temperatures, lighting, and fellowship. Oh and along with the bride and her brother, I had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with these amazing women, all of whom I had the joy of teaching. That, my friends, is a priceless treasure and one I will store in my heart forever.
A lesser known benefit of teaching is sharing your family with the students you adore. There have been countless moments over the years where that has happened. When going through the wedding photos with the bride’s parents, we stumbled across this jewel. My littlest has a penchant for catching the bouquet at weddings. She is in the pink dress on the left hand side. Notice her stealthy moves as she once again came away as the victor!
As school years are coming to the end, if you have the chance in the upcoming weeks to thank a favorite teacher (whether it be your own or your children’s), it will be a gift worth more than gold!