Gifts Worth Passing On: Encouragement, Affirmation, Gratitude, Trust

Today I ran into a friend, D, whom I hadn’t seen in many years. Over twenty years ago I was her daughter’s 5th grade teacher. D was the ace volunteer who spent most Fridays in the classroom with us. She attended field trips, helped with paperwork and gave her opinion when I asked for it.

She encouraged me back then as she encouraged me today. It was only my second year of teaching, and she trusted me when I tried new things in class and demanded a lot of her child. She did not hinder me by telling me I wasn’t doing it the way it had always been done.

When I wanted to tackle a big project and ask the kids to do more, she asked, “How can I help?”

We caught up on our lives and our children. My former student now has a toddler of her own so D is a proud Grandma. D had seen the article about my son and the Thiel Fellowship in our local paper, and asked for a follow up report. I filled her in on his speaking engagements, travel, and book deal.

“Lisa, YOU should write a book!” She was enthusiastic and encouraging. “About parenting and teaching. You changed my child’s life. You were not the run of the mill teacher, you made a huge difference.” I was flattered and asked why she felt that way.

She said her child had previously been an average student, a quiet, good girl. Nothing had really been demanded of her and she wasn’t viewed by teachers as a “star.” She said I gave her the vision that she could be more, do more, and expected it of her, and my other students.

“You saw her as bright and capable and with potential to excel. You showed her she could be an ‘A’ student if she wanted to work for it, and you showed her HOW to do it. You showed students their work could be meaningful, that they could make a difference. You set the bar high and gave them the tools they needed to succeed. And look what you did with Dale. You and Pierre encouraged his curiosity and allowed him to do things, try new things, to move beyond – like you did with the kids in your class.”

Before we parted, she said, “You SHOULD write a book, you know. And soon. I want it for my child and grandchild. Tell people what you did with your child and with the students in your classes, so they can do it too.”

So I am going to get to work. And I will reflect on that wonderful gift that D gave me today as well as many years ago: encouragement, affirmation, gratitude, trust.

She believed in me, and I believed in the kids.

I will be ever grateful for that trust.

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