Because of a Teacher

When George Couros asked me to write a chapter for a book about a teacher who influenced me, it was really easy to choose my dad. He was just one of those people who would light up a room and see and know people in such a magical way. I knew the story of who he was, and his impact on others would resonate with people. What I didn’t quite get at the time I wrote the chapter was the impact it would have on my family and me.

My dad passed away at a very early age, so my husband and my children never had the chance to meet him. As I was writing, I took the time to share stories with them about growing up with my dad. I was surprised at how many of them I had never told my husband or my eighteen-year-old daughter ever before. We spent hours talking about him, connecting with each other, and laughing a lot. My daughter helped me edit the chapter by telling me which stories resonated in print and which ones sounded a bit weird when they didn’t have enough context.

A short while after I sent off the chapter, someone posted a picture of my dad coaching an eighth-grade basketball team in 1969 on an alumni Facebook page. It was the first time someone posted about him on the page, so the timing was incredible. People flooded the page with stories of my dad, many of which I knew, but some that I did not.

The common theme in all the stories people told was that he showed up. He showed up for students and players when they were going through hard times. He showed up for them when they needed him to open doors for them. He showed up for them when they made mistakes. He just showed up. That’s who he was. Reading all these stories when I had just spent the day talking about him and sharing him with my family flooded my mind with all kinds of new connections, wonderful memories, and thoughts.

I sent some of the screenshots as the comments were coming in on the Facebook page to George, and he said something like when you put a lot of good out into the world; good comes back to you. It hit home. I could not stop thinking about the incredible impact you can have by just being you and putting good out into the world. My dad didn’t have a plan to go out and make a difference. He just saw people for exactly who they are and brought out the best in them. He showed up every day and put as much good into the world as he could. It sounds pretty simple, but that small effort changed many people’s lives for the better.

Since Because of a Teacher was released, I have heard from family, friends, and colleagues about the influence my dad had on them and the power of seeing his story in print. I have spent a lot of time wondering if I honor the people I see each day as much as I did him by writing a bit of his story. Something my dad and I have in common is our capacity to see the good in others and to show up. I know I do that for others all the time, but do I tell them enough when they have done small things that affected me? Do I tell them enough that I notice when they just showed up? I have been trying to be more purposeful about this. I say something when I see the “little” things and tell people more regularly how I see them and the good they are putting out into the world.

It has also been overwhelming to share this with the fourteen other authors in the book. As I have read their chapters- more than once-, follow their blogs and have now read (almost) all of their books, I am still incredibly humbled to be included in this group. They are such caring, intelligent people who each shared their stories with heart. We did an online launch party, and several of the authors shared how George had gotten them started with blogging (as he also did for me) and how he has pushed them to be better (as he has done for me). He has seen so many educators for the good they put out into the world and made a point to connect some of us through this book. The gravity of watching this online community continue to lift each other up on social media and support one another has been incredible. Every article, post, and message about how, as educators, we get the chance to make the world a better place for the learners we serve and how we need to give ourselves grace to not be perfect in our attempts to do so resonates with me and reminds me a lot of my dad.

The inspiring messaging and helpful advice from this group also remind me that we are not alone in the work we do. We have others, some of whom we may never meet in person, who want people to succeed and lift up those doing great work on behalf of children every single day.

It is crucial for us to know that our work is making a difference even on days when it is really hard. That the interactions we have with one another matter and even the small ones can mean the world to someone else. We need to know that we’re all doing the best we can and are growing all the time to be better. We don’t have all the answers and won’t get it right every time. We just need to show up and put as much good out into the world as we can each day.

In the last few months, many people have told me how proud my mom and dad would be of me. I wish they were both here today to share in the joy that this story and the work I get to do each day brings me and others. I know they are proud of me, my siblings, and all our children for who we are, who we are working to become, and how we give back to each other and the world. Because of a Teacher has brought my dad’s legacy back to life almost thirty years after his passing and has allowed it to live on forever. It makes me wonder about the legacy I may create today, tomorrow or the next day that will live on for the learners I serve and for my own children.

George wrote, “All it took was one person to get me to see something (in me) that I hadn’t seen in a while, if ever.” I am forever grateful to him for seeing something in me and encouraging me to tell my dad’s story. I actively look to see that same something in our families, staff, learners, and my own family each day by slowing down, being present, listening, and sharing experiences with them. Because of a Teacher has been an incredible reminder of why that matters and how our legacies can live on simply by showing up for each other whenever we can.

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