News Columns & Blogs

The time teachers spend uplifting kids is a gift that keeps on giving

When I retire, I think I want to be a greeter at Wal-Mart. What a neat job that would be — saying “Hello” to every stranger who walks in the door, smiling and offering a “good morning” to hundreds of people throughout the day. I think I’d be good at that.

One can’t help but smile when a kind face of greeting busts up your bad day. I bet we all can attest to the warm feeling a nice greeting brings.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: there is such power in the spoken word. Add a little smile, and you’ve got a concoction of pure delight that would melt even the coldest heart.

That’s the mindset Eagle Ridge Academy teacher Angie Strother has for her second-grade classroom.

High fives and a hug await her students as they walk into the room, and the class begins the day with what she calls, “Feel Good Time”. The classroom Leader of the Day sits atop a big chair at the front of the room and chooses classmates to give him or her a feel-good compliment. Mrs. Strother uses the activity to instill into her students the warmth a word of encouragement can bring. Spreading kindness becomes routine.

Mrs. Strother also operates under the premise of Maya Angelou’s words: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Mrs. Strother once taught a little guy named Tommy, who eagerly walked to school with no shoes on his little feet. Tommy had shoes the next day. Matthew was born addicted to crack and broke is leg at one point during the school year. So, with a fistfull of “Get Well” balloons and a hat from his favorite team, Mrs. Strother bounded into his hospital room with an ample supply of sunshine. Molly had terrible asthma and was being raised by her sister because her mother died when Molly was quite young. She left school one day with a huge bag full of clothes and gifts from an anonymous donor. Mrs. Strother, yet again.

But the impact of Mrs. Strother’s positivity doesn’t end with covered feet, balloons, and a bag of clothes. She is, in fact, a teacher who is charged with the job of teaching her students. Well, she does that with remarkably, too.

Eve came to Mrs. Strother’s second grade classroom with a dramatic reading deficit, so Mrs. Strother’s had some work to do. After reading individually with Eve three times a week for 12 weeks, Eve reached grade level. It took a lot of work. Twelve weeks of focused, hard work. The success required Mrs. Strother to take Eve where she was and make a plan to get her where she needed to be. Eve’s growth required a positive mindset and the dedication required to get there. The individual stories of success in Mrs. Strother’s second grade classroom are endless, but they all have one common thread — positivity.

Tommy, Matthew, Molly, and Eve have moved beyond Mrs. Strother’s second grade classroom. I’m not sure where they are or what they’re doing now, but I am willing to guess they remember Mrs. Strother. The new sneakers have been tossed, I’m sure. And the balloons have lost their air, the clothes have been outgrown, and the books have become more complicated. But the feelings remain. I’m quite confident of that.

I go back to the “Feel Good Time.” Wouldn’t life be grand if we diligently made the effort to make people remember us because of how we made them feel?

Reading levels are vital. Academic growth is imperative. For that, we applaud Mrs. Strother and the many other teachers.

But the additional time teachers spend teaching our kids to be kind is a priceless gift that keeps on giving, and for that investment, our hearts are warmed.