Three years ago, my daughter pretended that the world was made of hexagons.
This was not a whimsical flight of the imagination; this was a desperate and dramatic ploy to stay in bed. Ten-year-old Violet was screaming and crying and calling me the world’s worst parent because I made her go to school when she was so tired that she was delusional — so tired that all she saw were hexagons.
This was not an isolated incident. Three years ago, mornings and evenings were filled with drama. Whenever she was unreachably mad, we’d have to give her time and space to be “bombaloo.” But this week, thirteen-year-old Violet has been getting herself up every morning at 5:15 so that she can get ready for swim practice. She has started high school and is managing her homework loads responsibly. She is polite and kind-hearted. Somehow my daughter has grown up into a decent human being — a young lady so magnanimous that she allowed me to include the story about the hexagons.
This is all because of you.
Help Along the Way
You didn’t work with my daughter directly. Unless, of course, you’re Miss Dombrowski, who made her second-grade classroom feel simultaneously safe and sophisticated. Or Mrs. DeHerder, who connected her to the literary series that would shape her ideas about what it means to be wise. Maybe you’re Mrs. Kreh, who gave her the space to be herself while making sure she stayed connected with her peers. Or Mrs. Oren: by forcing her out of her comfort zone, you cultivated an adaptable and resilient young woman.
Maybe you didn’t work with Violet. But you’re an educator, and you work with your own Violet’s every day. You’re about to have that impact on dozens of children — to add to the legacy of lives you’ve touched.
It’s hard to see your influence right now. This will be a challenging school year, and quite often it will feel strange and awful. But even in difficult times — especially in difficult times — an artful educator makes an impact.
How it Happens
It almost never happens all at once. I taught for fifteen years and I can count on one hand the number of times that something I did had an immediate, lasting, and transformative impact on a student. Those epiphanies are wonderful, but they’re just a small fraction of the good we do.
More powerful is the slow accretion of good advice and kind redirections. The listening ears and the helping hands.
Those little things take time to change lives. The same difficult behaviors that exist one day persist for days, or weeks, or months. Over the year we might see the needle move a little. But when those subtle acts are given the weight of years, when we play our part and then transfer the care and guidance to other excellent educators, those little things make big differences.
My hope for you in this bleak, bizarre back-to-school season is that you remember how much light you bring into the world. The guidance you give today has an impact. The nurture you provide makes a difference. As parents, we see you. We value you and appreciate how well you do a difficult job. Thank you.