I just recently finished teaching my first college course and loved it. Why? It wasn’t just one person or thing that made me enjoy it. There were many. The students – prospective educators who were passionate about becoming teachers – top the list. Also, the learning I was able to do alongside them was helpful. Then, there was the ability to share my knowledge and experiences. Last but not least, there was the last night of class that I brought in some of my favorite teacher resources – post-its of all sizes, pens, and markers – to give them as a final class gift. Their excitement was amazing at getting these small gifts. I have had the thought before about how much I love giving gifts, but this moment reiterated it is the little things that can make a big difference to others.
Those “things,” my actions, and my experiences all helped me convey a belief. My mindset shifted into a more positive light all by the little steps I took with this class and I think that’s why I looked forward to Thursday nights. It also brings me to a connection of my book – Student-Centered Mentoring (forthcoming April 2022). The core of my work is reliant on my beliefs and it is your lucky day because I’m going to let you read a small part of how I developed one of those 4 beliefs:
Think about a former student who you’ve seen years after having them in your class. Maybe they came back to visit you in your classroom, or you passed them at the grocery store or a restaurant. The moment they ask if you remember who they are, you have trouble containing yourself. Of course, you remember! You probably remember their seat in the classroom, how they behaved socially or academically, and maybe even who their best friend was. You may also remember the rituals, songs, books read, or even symbols or visuals that helped that student learn. Despite how old you feel when they say their age, you immediately hope for their continued success.
As I write this, one of my most memorable classes is about to graduate from high school. They were the class I looped with; the class that I formed relationships with like no other because of the extended time we were together. Now, I see them making life decisions and succeeding, in big and small ways. Those 4th and 5th grade classrooms may have been years ago, but the memories of them come flooding back whenever I see Facebook posts from those students about their upcoming graduation and college decisions. I remember their group presentations about the weather and the important conversations we had about how to encourage each other to speak in front of the class. I also remember the vulnerable discussions we had about divorce while reading Hatchet, where time just seemed to get away from us. Those memories remind me of my commitment—to keep student learning at the forefront of my thinking and actions. No matter how big or small, the symbols or rituals we implore will impact their memory more than we may ever know. Because if remembering those times gives me hope, passion, and purpose, I can only wonder what my past students recall that could be empowering to them.
~A. Brueggeman (2022)
TIP: Reflect on your impact of the little things
I would bet you are having visuals come to the surface as you read this piece. In order to help you develop your own belief(s), maybe the questions below will help. Even if you aren’t an educator, you can reflect on your impact on others, as we are all teachers and students.
In the end, the path to develop a belief helps us to think about past memories and the lesson we learn. It is my hope for everyone to also think of the positive takeaways from those experiences. That is what helps to form a positive and learning mindset. I cannot wait to share more highlights from my book, so be on the lookout for more in 2022!
- Brueggeman, A. (forthcoming 2022). Student-Centered Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.