Blessing #14: My Students, Ripples in the Water


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  ~ Mother Teresa

My journey to keep my dream alive has created a wonderful habit: I count my blessings when dark thoughts creep in. Now, whenever I feel the walls closing in on me, I immediately look outward at the things that are beautiful in my life, and those walls disappear.

My students are such a blessing in my life. They confirm that I need to be a teacher. The last thing I heard from one of my students on Friday was, “Mrs. Hawkins, now I know why my sister said you’re the best teacher ever.”

As great as it was to hear that, it doesn’t stop with receiving compliments. My students are also a blessing because I know that I’m making a difference in their lives. I know that they will go on and make a difference in other people’s lives. Every year I get to “cast a stone across the waters,” hoping to create many ripples.

I am thankful that my students don’t make me wonder if I’ve succeeded.

When former and current students trashed my house during an unauthorized party last December, I was ready to walk away from teaching. It was such a betrayal. How could I pour my heart into these kids, just to have them be so disrespectful to me? I wrote a Facebook post that stated as much.

The response was immediate.

Former students commented, begging me not to quit. I was the teacher who changed their lives, they told me.

One student drove down from Denver to see me before I left for the day, so he could tell me not to put too much emphasis on the kids who didn’t get it, but to remember the ones who did, like him. Jason was a shy kid, whose reticence was misunderstood by most of his teachers throughout his life. I saw the poet in him and gave him a voice and leadership in journalism. I watched him blossom as he gained the confidence he needed to pursue his dreams. He is now Eppic making a positive imprint on the rap scene, promoting love, forgiveness, and joy in an industry that is anything but that. One of many beautiful ripples that I was invited to see.

I have a number of students getting teaching degrees because they tell me, “I want to be a teacher just like you, Mrs. Hawkins.”

I had a student who visited me before she went off to med school, just to tell me that her freshmen year with me put her on the right path with her education.

I recently had two boys that graduated last year stop in to see me. They signed in with security, and the guards were confused. What were those boys doing back? They were always in danger of getting suspended, always in trouble, but they wanted to see me. A guard came to make sure this was legitimate. The boys and I laughed afterwards about how so many people see their outward appearance and neglect to see their beautiful hearts. They told me I was a teacher who cared enough to really know them.

I wonder if all of my former students know that by visiting me they cast their own stones, creating a beautiful ripple in my life.

With every kind word they pushed out the sadness that was suffocating my joy. Their thankfulness reminded me of what I had to be thankful for. And truly, that heart of thankfulness is the impetus for change.

That’s why counting my blessings is necessary; it changes my heart, and all of the people around me benefit from it.

I’m only two weeks in to this new school year. I’ve seen all of my students a total of 4 class periods. I already have stories that heal my soul.

I had one student who needed a schedule change. He only had me two class periods, yet he begged his counselor not to take him out of my class. The counselor said he wasn’t a child who seemed like the attachment-type. What could he have possibly seen in me in two days? Sadly, he couldn’t stay with me; I lost an opportunity to work with someone who needed me, somehow.

I had another student who requested me, but would only be in my classroom 2nd semester. He went to the counselor and told her he didn’t care what had to happen to his schedule as long as I was his English teacher for the full year.

I question why my students feel this way about me. I’m not an easy teacher. I make them work hard. I have high expectations. But, I believe in them, too. I know they can do it.

I look into my students’ hopeful eyes and know I have an important job. I want to fill them with knowledge and help them pursue their passions in life.

As I encourage them to follow their dreams, they repay me by giving me the strength to continue living mine. My heart overflows with joy, pushing the pain away.

I am blessed to be in a profession I love. I am blessed to see the beautiful eyes and smiles shining back at me, reminding me that life is beautiful.

I know that I alone cannot change the world, but I can help create ripples that will.

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