I taught in the same school building for 35 years. North Allegheny Intermediate High School was an extraordinary school filled with talented teachers, caring administrative leaders, great kids, and a wonderful support staff, from the paraprofessionals to the secretaries and custodians. The adults in the building worked together to help our 9th and 10th grade students have a positive experience during their two year stint at our school.
Today, I heard a story about one of my favorite custodians, a man I will call Jerry, who lost his life to cancer years ago. This story begins with one of my teacher friends counseling a student in her classroom after school. This student was so despondent - he was constantly comparing himself to others in his class, and focusing on his perceived negative qualities. He was lamenting his lack of popularity and lack of any prospects for a girlfriend. He visited with this teacher on several occasions, and she sensed that he was becoming more desperate and that he might be going to hurt himself as he fell deeper into teen angst.
During one after school chat, Jerry came into the room to empty the trash can, and he became a part of the conversation with the teacher and the young man. Jerry had a very easy way with people, and his casual conversation struck a chord with the depressed young man. The teacher noted that the boy started seeking Jerry out after school, walking with him room to room, helping him to empty all those trash cans, while deep in conversation about life. Trust was formed, and the student/custodian friendship grew, and after a while, this meaningful connection with the custodian helped to lift this boy out of depression.
Sometimes, we just need one person to care. We need one person to reach out and connect with us, and we never know just who that person is going to be until we meet him. I smiled as the teacher finished her story. I remembered all the great things about Jerry, including his sense of humor and his laid back way of looking at life. Even though we were good friends, Jerry never told me this story all those years ago. I heard it for the first time today, and it made me smile.
This story is just one of many similar stories from my former school. Caring and connections between staff members and students helped our kids to be successful and our building to win many awards. When I read about schools in which student test scores are unacceptable and morale is low, I believe the school is not working hard enough to include everyone and to make everyone feel connected to the school community.
Teaching is all about relationships. School communities should all about relationships and caring, or the students will not benefit from an inclusive and supportive environment, which will limit their personal success.
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Please invite Grady Gets Glasses (and me) into your school. if you are not in the Pittsburgh area, we do virtual field trips with a group called Field Trip Zoom. www.Fieldtripzoom.com GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 and 2018 (new edition) from The Authors' Zone.Grady also won a 2018 prestigious Moonbeam Award for Best Children's Book with Merchandise.
Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required reading. Signed copies are available www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics.
I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books. Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self. However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired!
Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom. Check them out! http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/
Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book. I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
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