Do the Right Thing

“Kindness can transform someone’s dark moment with a blaze of light. You’ll never know how much your caring matters. Make a difference for another today.”
Amy Leigh Mercree


Recently I agreed to be a part of a committee called RTI which means “response to intervention.”  It is a program designed to help students who need a little extra help with their classes or behavior.  I didn’t really think much about but I need hours for my Masters internship so I thought, why not!

This past week we met for the first time to review the files of the students that had been identified.  At first there was nothing unusual, just a few kids that were habitual trouble makers and we were trying to come up with ideas to help them to be successful.  Everything was going pretty well until one of the members brought up a kid that he had just enrolled the previous week.  The assistant principal said that he was only a freshman but he did not want to be in school and was so adamant about it that he was causing a scene in the office.  When the principal spoke to the student one on one he was asking him if he was having trouble at home or in school and when he pressed he saw the student start to break down and cry.  As we talked in the committee we discovered that he had been a good student early in junior high but something happened during the 8th grade caused him to snap.  It was all I could do not to cry in the middle of the meeting.  I can’t hear stories like that without thinking about how we can somehow make a difference.  I had a new perspective on the committee.  I suddenly found myself wondering what could be so bad that would cause a student to hate school so bad that he wanted to fight?  I sat there and thought about him and wondered how many other kids there were like him?

It reminded me of something that I have thought about quite a bit over the past four or five years.  That is, that we as teachers really have no clue what our students are going through or have gone through.  Since I have been in my current teaching position and school I have had one student painfully admit that they had been sexually abused in the past,  three or four admit that they had thoughts of suicide and at least six that lost a parent or close family member while in my class.  I imagine that if that many have actually admitted it, then there are many others that are too ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone.

It reminds me that as a teacher my job is to teach these students Chemistry or Physics.  But as a human being it is my responsibility to help them deal with life.  In my opinion there are some things that are more important than academics.  Sometimes students have real issues and if I can somehow help them with that then I consider that to be successful.   If I can make a connection with a student  maybe I can make a difference.  Numerous former students have told me that school was difficult for them and that I made it more bearable for them.  Those are the stories I cherish and long to hear.  Lately I have been thinking about my future and what I will do once I get my Masters degree.  I still don’t know exactly what the future holds but part of my decision will based on how much I will be able to help students.


3 thoughts on “Do the Right Thing

  1. I had the same feelings during that meeting. I get so frustrated with our system. The test becomes the most important thing in the classroom. I am not just talking about teaching to the EOC, but any test. Some teachers have been made to feel that teaching content is the most important part of his/her classroom….it isn’t. After 25 years at this job, I can in all honesty state that building relationships with our students is the most important job we have. This doesn’t mean being their “buddy”. If the relationship is built correctly, a student will then have an illusion of friendship. Meaning, that they feel we are their advocate, we are their sounding board, and that we will not give up on them. Students only misbehave because they have learned that negative attention is better than none at all. But, like you said, if a kid was fine until the 8th grade and then suddenly his entire personality changes, something happened….and probably something bad. I just don’t want to be on this committee and the paper work becomes the most important thing about it. I think we need to call the students in and meet them….face to face and just talk about what is going on in their lives….positive and negative. I am going to try my best to make sure that happens the rest of this year and for all the ones I have left in this field.

  2. Mr. Shults you have made me cry one again… i love your blog! Being on the road and far away from home i forget that i am a strong woman because of people like you. I thank you once again for those words of advice and i too can relate to a lot of things in my past that now no longer haunt me… but what matters the most is people like you that actually care for whats going on beyond what its actually in front of us.

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