Tim Cole is a former student of mine from my days teaching English at Akron Springfield High School. I was there from 1993-1998, so I had Tim in class between fifteen and twenty years ago. In the past year Tim and I have reconnected on Twitter, and last night he reminded me of something that I have long since forgotten.
Apparently I frequently told my students “a clean school is a happy school,” and I would get irritated when I would see kids drop trash in the hallway and not pick it up.
One day between class changes I put a crumpled up piece of paper in the middle of the doorway to my classroom. As the kids came strolling into the room, every one of them stepped directly over the piece of trash. Not one of them picked it up.
I then started class with a rather firm discussion about taking pride in your environment, about treating property well, about wanting to go to a school that was neat and tidy rather than one that had trash strewn all over the hallways.
Like I said, I completely forgot that I ever did that. But Tim remembered. Even though it was more than fifteen years ago, Tim Cole remembered my lesson about taking pride in your environment.
The lesson was not planned.
The lesson was not assessed on a standardized state test.
The lesson was not one that I can even remember giving.
Wow! Sometimes you make an impression on people and you never even know it. (There is a great video that speaks to this, but Nordonia teachers please don’t watch it because I’m going to share it with you in August: Drew Dudley: Everyday Leadership)
I’m not sure Tim remembers anything about Romeo and Juliet. I’m not sure he remembers talking about Thoreau’s Life in the Woods. I’m not sure he remembers what a predicate adjective is. But I am thrilled that he remembered something that still has meaning in his life, and I am humbled to know that I did make some kind of positive impression on a kid. In Tim’s tweet to me, he said he liked my class “BC we learned about life & developed prob solving skills.” And he used the hashtag #BeyondContent.
Educators, this is a lesson we can’t forget. Content is important, but education is so much more than that. It’s about building relationships and teaching life skills that our kids will remember long after they’ve forgotten what an adverb is. Teachable moments present themselves to us all the time. We need to take advantage of every minute we have with kids.
Will it change the world? I don’t know. But it will make for cleaner hallways!