I started teaching when I was nine months pregnant with Levi (my youngest). I taught for two weeks and checked into the hospital on the first day my “fancy” new health insurance could be verified. I also had the privilege of starting my career in a brand new building, which is exciting, but also comes with an unexpected lack of residual supplies.
As I think back to this time in my life and my career-a particular story of kindness stands out, as it has impacted my perspective and my practice.
I needed a stapler. One day during inservice, at lunch or in the workroom, I mentioned that I had been told that the supply order was ready to go but couldn’t be placed until September 1st (3 weeks later…my first glimpse of the school finance system). Coach Williams overheard my plight and offered to let me have one of his, as years of service had left him with an abundance (three). Coach Williams wasn’t in my department , so after I thanked him I had to ask for directions to his room. He said he would set it out on the table, in case I came by when he wasn’t “home”.
The next week I had my syllabus ready and was ready to staple! I waddled down to Coach’s room. I saw the stapler on the table, picked it up and talked with him for a minute, thanking him again for letting me borrow the stapler.
The supplies were delivered sometime while I was on maternity leave, and I didn’t think about it again till later the next semester when Coach Williams asked me if I had ever found a stapler to use at the beginning of the year. In that very puzzling conversation, I realized that I had borrowed (or rather stolen) a stapler from Coach Futch.
After school I made my way down to Coach Futch’s room, to set things right. I apologized for the confusion, and the theft. Before I left I sheepishly asked why he hadn’t said anything, why had he let me walk out of the room with the stapler!? He responded with a smile, “I had something that you needed, and I was happy to help!”
I have never forgotten these two men, and what they taught me that year about what it really means to be a teacher. For years, I have used this story as an example of a what a team is and can be. I have shared the story with students as we talked about kindness. I have tried to support my co-workers with this same generosity and willingness to serve.
However, the most important lesson in this story for me is the example of who I have always wanted to be for my students. There are times when, as teachers, we are prepared to meet the needs of our students-like Coach Williams who saw what I needed, had the resources to meet the need, and prepared (set out the stapler). This is why we look at data, identify strategies and scaffolds that will meet our students where they are, and then we intentionally plan for their success.
There are also so many times where the need is a surprise, students “waddle” into our rooms with needs that we didn’t expect, couldn’t have planned for, and yet we still have exactly what they need. I am still not sure what Coach Futch did for a stapler in the interim-but I know that he didn’t hesitate to give me what I needed in that moment.
As we start a new school year, it is my goal to do both for those around me:
- I will do everything I can to prepare, get things ready, and have extra “staplers” for those who need them.
- I also want to see the need and be willing to give, to learn, and to work in ways that I hadn’t planned-to see teachers and students succeed.
I gave Coach Futch the new stapler, and kept the one he had given me. I have had it in every classroom, cart, and office over the last 15 years. At some point, my students decorated it. At some point, it broke. Now it sits on my shelf as a reminder of the kindness that has helped shaped who I am and the potential each interaction has to impact the people around me.