Yesterday afternoon while I was teaching, a student from last year popped her head in my room and said, “Mrs. Polen, I have something for you”. I told her to wait a second and when I went over to her, she had pulled three pictures out of her backpack and put them on the table. “Pick one,” she said with a smile; they were her senior pictures. While they were all very pretty, I picked the one that I thought looked most like her natural smile and she told me everyone picked that one. I told her it was because it looked most like her. I went back to my class and didn’t notice when she went to my desk and laid the picture on top of my papers. At the end of the period after reminding the students of their assignment that was due tomorrow, I walked over to my desk and found the picture. When I turned it over, this is what she had written:
She and I talk almost daily about TV shows (we both love Dr. Who and Sherlock), books we’ve read (she made me promise to read Eleanor and Park this past weekend, which I did and it was fabulous!) and how her classes are going. Honestly, she reminds me so much of my oldest daughter, that I truly look forward to our daily conversations; I do feel a real connection with her. I haven’t had her as a student since last year, but I love that she makes an effort to stay in touch.
Her gesture yesterday reminded me of the importance of building relationships with students; if they feel safe and welcomed in your classroom then they will always remember that and it can make a real difference in their lives. I will keep her picture as a reminder of this, especially on days when I’m cranky or when I’m frustrated if the lesson falls flat. As long as I can make a connection with my students, then I have at least accomplished that, and that is something which is just as important as any lesson.