A rewarding story 4 years in the making
As I approach my last 5 weeks of teaching, I am filled with mixed emotions. I'm so very thankful to have spent the last 4 years at a truly amazing school in Nanjing, China. I feel blessed and have nothing but gratitude for the experience that my family and I have had here. As some of you may know, I've decided to stop teaching at this end of this school year to pursue a long time goal of becoming a full-time teacher trainer/consultant.
I must admit there are some days I wake up thinking to myself, "What the hell have I done??!!!". Why would I give up such a great job in a fantastic school? But, when I reflect for any length of time, I'm proud to have taken the risk to do something that I am truly passionate about. I'm certainly going to miss my students though. My wife, Neila Steele, will continue on at the school and our boys, Eli and Tai, will continue on as well. Although I will still be a part of the community, it won’t be the same as going into school to teach every day.
Teaching can seem like such a thankless job at times. We put our hearts fully into it, diving deep into our practice in an effort to change kids lives forever. What we often overlook is the fact that our lives our being changed forever as well. I know mine certainly has over the past 15 years of international teaching. Receiving feedback about the genuine impact we are having on those who we teach doesn’t come very often. However, when it does, it plays a powerful role in reminding us about why we teach. I want to share a story of one of my small victories in teaching that has been 4 years in the making.
There is a boy I have taught for the past 4 years who has really struggled in physical education. I made it a goal, years ago, to spend as much time as I could having discussions with him and working on his mindset in an effort to get him to better believe in himself. I felt like I was beginning to breakthrough a couple of years ago. I noticed he was putting in greater effort and getting more involved in the activities done in PE. I kept on him, continuing to have important discussions and praising his level of effort whenever possible. Here is a recognition certificate that I gave him last year.
This boy has continued to blossom and really embrace the idea that physical education is about being the best we can be, learning new ways to be physically active, and working together with others. I've seen a big change in him as he is continuing to take risks and is showing lots of courage. He chose to take part in the 800-meter run which was a huge step for him. I was pumped that he had decided to do this. He knew that he would not be one of the fastest and that he would struggle but he gave it a go which is what's most important. I could see that he was pushing himself throughout the run doing the best he could. Although finishing last in his heat, some of his classmates ran alongside him cheering him on. One of our teachers gave him his house flag to carry the last 200-meters. he ran along, waving the flag to the cheers of the crowd, but was really feeling the pain. I couldn't tell how he felt at the time, but his end of unit reflection below said it all. he was very proud of himself. A couple of years ago he would have never chosen to run this event. I made sure to go over to him after the race to let him know how proud I was of him. It was truly great to see.
A few weeks back our PE department was approached by a graduate student asking if he could do some fitness testing on some of our students for his masters thesis. Our administration allowed him to do this and we didn't mind as he was doing a comparative study on how fit international students are compared to Chinese students. However, we made it very clear that it was optional for students. A letter was sent home to the parents explaining the situation. My student's mom had written to us to say that she didn't want her son taking part in the testing, but was clear about her reasons why. See what she wrote below.
Please do not include --------- in the fitness testing. He is only just gaining confidence in fitness and sport. And he is sometimes teased by his classmates about being a slow runner. Andy has been wonderful in building his confidence to the point that he has decided to sign up for the basketball squad.
I consider this to be one of those small victories in teaching and knowing I have played a part in building up his confidence to the point that he has chosen to sign up for after school sport means a lot to me. He played on my son's basketball team and travelled to Shanghai recently to compete in a tournament. From what I understand, he did quite well which makes me even happier for him.
I'm sure that many of you reading this blog post have your own success stories and small victories with students. It's what makes teaching a beautifully rewarding profession to be a part of isn't it? I hope you can reflect on the impact that you are having and continue to be difference makers to those who you teach. I'll end this blog post with one of my favorite quotes by none other than Jim Carey himself. Don't ever forget the effect that you have on others!
“How will you serve the world, what do they need that your talent can provide? That's all you have to figure out. The effect that you have on others is the most valuable currency that there is.”