Memorable Students

An Excerpt from “They Call Me Mom” by Pete Springer

I put a lot of responsibility on myself to be a role model for my students. I remember when former basketball great and current commentator, Charles Barkley, once said, “I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe that parents should be role models.” I think that what Mr. Barkley was saying was that athletes should not be role models for kids just because they happen to be good at some particular athletic skill.

While I agree with this sentiment, I also know that sometimes some of our students did not have good role models to emulate in their families. I taught many kids who needed a positive male influence in their lives. I felt that a significant part of my job as a teacher went far beyond what a child learned in the core academic material or the grade level standards. The most important lessons I wanted my students to learn were often not found in textbooks—things like hard work, achieving your dreams, respecting others’ differences, learning to work with a partner or team, and learning from your mistakes. These were all qualities I hoped that I could pass on to my students.

The times when I was hardest on myself were the moments I felt that I had let my students down in one of those areas. I welcomed and appreciated the opportunity to be a role model for my students. Most of the time I think I did an excellent job of that, but part of being a human being is realizing that we aren’t perfect. If I believed I had messed up in some way toward my class or an individual, I knew the correct thing to do was to offer a sincere apology to that person or group. Kids are learning from us all the time, and how we react when we make a mistake teaches them to admit fault and accept responsibility for their actions.

Teachers should embrace this immense responsibility. I considered it a blessing, and not a curse, to have been given this opportunity to inspire my students. Sure, plenty of professions pay more. Yes, some jobs don’t have so much constant change and instability, but how many people go to work day after day and say they were given this fantastic opportunity to be a role model and honestly make a difference in their community? Getting hugs every day from your students doesn’t hurt either.

38 thoughts on “Memorable Students

  1. I think any adult who interacts with children is a role model, Pete, whether we choose it or not, and we should, at least, acknowledge the fact even if we don’t embrace it. And that includes Charles. It’s a daunting and wonderful role, full of heart and kindness. I imagine you made a huge difference in the lives of your students. Happy Holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 6:26 am

      It is a privilege and responsibility to be a role model. I often describe teaching as the hardest and yet most rewarding job I ever had. We all need people to look up to. One of my most significant educational role models is my former master teacher and principal, Nancy. As if she hasn’t done enough for me already, she is now one of my writing critique partners. What a blessing to have this special person in my life!

      Thanks for the comment, Diana. Best wishes to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Teaching is demanding on so many levels. I don’t miss my classroom, am happy to be teaching online, but those memories–they’ll never go away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 11:13 am

      Absolutely! I may be retired, but I’m following my former students’ progress all the time. I have to know how some of those stories turn out. Since I live in the same city I taught in, I still run into them regularly.

      Like

  3. If it hadn’t been for people, such as teachers, outside my home I never would have turned into a grounded, productive person. I took my responsibility as a teacher to heart knowing what a difference it can make.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 11:16 am

      It’s interesting what routes we took to become educators. I never thought about becoming a teacher seriously until I became an adult. In fact, I never liked school that much until I got to college. Thanks for being such a dedicated teacher, Elizabeth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. I was never going to teach English whenever someone asked me what I was going to do with an English degree. But my love of English finally took me to a classroom.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 12:51 pm

        Better late than never.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I MISS my students. They were a lot older than yours but they kept me honest and reminded me that I am not perfect. Perhaps that’s why when I meet one years down the road and they tell me what a good teacher I was, I rejoice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 11:21 am

      All we can do is our best, Noelle. If we ask that from our students, we should expect the same from ourselves. My last class is now in 7th grade—the years are picking up speed. Did you teach high school or college?

      Like

  5. Excellent points, Pete. Yes, learning continues outside and beyond the brick and mortar of buildings. As for role models, they’re found everywhere. I try o be one at my school crossing job. Keep up the great work, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 11:35 am

      I’ve been enjoying your posts, Steve. I think it’s fabulous the way that you weave in a little learning while keeping the students feel safe and cared for. Do your students ever see you away from school? That’s one of the funniest things about teaching elementary school to me. Students see you at the post office, grocery store, gas station, etc… and call out enthusiastically. I enjoy the faces of the other people there who look our way and think, “Who the heck is this guy? He doesn’t look famous to me.”😎

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pete, if the kids see me around town, they’re apt not to recognize me because I’m not wearing yellow 😂! Thanks for the nice compliment. I’ve really gotten into it with ‘facts, quizzes, jokes, et al’, all in the name of making them feel good and learn something. We’re working on US Civics stuff this week. The kids love it. I’m lucky that I live and work in an excellent school system (Brighton, NY, a suburb of Rochester) where the kids are motivated and nice kids.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just a quick note, Pete. I’m heading to my post now…it’s 10F and snowy. Brrrrrr…..It’ll be fun, though, discussing IT and IT’S!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 7:02 am

        You’re a good man, Steve. (it’s and its—By the way, while you’re at it, can you teach the kids and their parents that “a lot” is two words?)😎😎 You’re almost to that glorious day that many in the education world love—the last day before the winter break. It was an interesting dichotomy: On the one hand, I loved everything about being around kids. On the other hand, I couldn’t wait to get away from school for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, too many of those “breaks” ended up with me getting sick. (I made the decision to retire when I was lying in bed for the third Christmas in a row, feeling sorry for myself.)

        I also reminded myself that while many of my fellow teachers and I were fantasizing about sleeping in and relaxing (what’s that?), some children would actually miss the stability and safe place that school provided them.

        Enjoy your time off and come back raring to go. Some of those kids are going to miss those conversations they have with you each day.

        Like

  6. Your thoughts and words are those of an outstanding, caring professional. Obviously, teaching was not just a job, it was a calling for you, one that you answered very well, and and one you continue to answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 11:25 am

      Thank you, Kent. I take inspiration from other dedicated teachers, such as yourself. 42+ is something to be proud of—not just the length of service but the quality of those years. For anyone interested in knowing more about the middle school experience, check out Kent’s book. https://www.amazon.com/Teaching-42-Kent-Willis-ebook/dp/B07QZFJRSJ

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  7. well said; pre-K -12th grade teachers are our most valuable natural resource, and also our most undervalued…

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    1. petespringerauthor December 17, 2019 — 3:29 pm

      Education is essential across the board. My wife was a preschool teacher and director, and I know you teach at Villanova. College isn’t for everyone, but it’s nice to have that option.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. my wife is a preschool teacher, and you quickly realize how critical those jobs are.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with so many of your commenters. And, although I consider myself a much better parent than the alarming cases I read about in the news, I ALWAYS need the teachers and other adults in my kids’ lives to be role models as well. For one thing, my kids listen and obey differently to other adults!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 7:29 am

      Your last point is so valid! It used to make me laugh when a parent would say to me at parent conference time something like, “Will you talk to him? He’ll listen to you.” The implication being that our kids are professionals at tuning us out. (The teacher’s biological children too! 😎😎)

      The reality of parenting and teaching is that there are going to be times where we screw up. It’s how we handle those situations, where the real learning takes place. (for kids and parents alike) Do we learn from our own mistakes? Hopefully, the answer is yes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a very black-and-white thinker, and he loves to point out when there are errors. I have so much trouble getting him to accept ANYONE’s fallibility (including mine), but I hope it gets through to him eventually!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 7:57 am

        I don’t know how old your son is, but I have a feeling at some point he will realize, “You know, my mom’s not the idiot I thought she was.” It is the natural evolution for us (in the parent/child relationship) to think our parents don’t have a clue, until the day we wake up and realize they’re pretty wise.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. ❤ True! It’s one reason I want them all to have kids of their own. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a lovely post, Pete. You are right when you say that not all parents are good role models for their children. It is fantastic that you were able to help fill this gap with some of your students. Very rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2019 — 9:38 pm

      Plenty of parents, such as yourself, are great role models. That’s the best thing possible for kids when they come from a loving home with lots of support. Your Sir Chocolate series is fantastic—such a unique idea. Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course, it is best when parents care and are good role models, but not all children are that fortunate. Teachers can play a big role in a child’s life. I will always remember Sister Agatha and the lovely books she gave me to read and also my Granny Joan who taught me how to make so many lovely homemade things.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Pete, I can identify with some of your story. HS was very clickish and college is where I found myself stepping out of my shell and going for things. I did a lot with student leadership activities (should have paid more attention to actual school work, but, as kids say, ‘whatever’…). I taught elementary for 5 years, did the Army Drill Sergeant course, got into sales and pushed for a territory that required a relocation to NY state. Retired (involuntarily) And now get up early, daily, to help kids across a highway. And I love it. I’d like to send you something privately about this past week if you’d care to share email or some other way. Have a great day!

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    1. petespringerauthor December 21, 2019 — 7:09 am

      Thanks for reaching out, Steve. I’d love to hear from you. My email is petespringer77@gmail.com. I think having something meaningful in our lives is what gets us up in the morning, and it sounds like your crossing guard job provides that. Connecting with kids, by whatever method, is the best. I’m teaching a one day workshop on card tricks in January to kids, and I’m excited about that.

      I’m still trying to figure out how what I want and hope to achieve with this blogging bit. For some, it is an avenue to sell more books. (Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not me.) For me, I see it as an opportunity to practice writing (I’m still new at this gig) but mostly the chance to meet and connect with interesting people. I’m still at the point, wondering, “Does anybody give a damn what I have to say in the first place?” It is rather presumptuous to assume they do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Practicing writing is a great reason. Since I’m new (a few years but not a lot of material), I get a kick out of telling a story with words. And, if it appeals to just a few and someone finds joy in my stories, I’m content. In fact, I’m amazed when they do. I find the mental challenge to be an important objective, as well. I’m 73 and want my mind to stay fresh. Teaching manic tricks sounds like a fun exercise. And hanging with kids keeps you young. Thanks for the email address. I’ll write to you later after I get done ‘licking my wounds’ from yesterday’s Buffalo Bill’s loss to the Pats…😥😂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. petespringerauthor December 22, 2019 — 7:31 pm

    You’re preaching to the choir when it comes to football—I love my sports. I would have been watching, if not for my migraine. I always root against the Patriots, and the Bills haven’t been relevant in quite a few years. I remember—Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and of course, the missed field goal (Scott Norwood?) that cost the Bills a Super Bowl. While I root against the Pats, it’s hard not to have respect for Belichick and Brady, who have done it for so long. It’s classic Patriots to come through about the time we start to count them out. Hopefully, you get another crack at them in the playoffs.

    I love that you’re writing. I don’t know if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. If you’re writing nonfiction, I encourage you to pass on these stories to your children and grandchildren. They will love them if you are writing about family history.

    One of my most treasured moments in the past year (I’ll be blogging about this at some point) has been to join one of my educational mentors. Nancy was one of my master teachers and principals. She has had an amazing impact on my life, and now she continues to amaze me at eighty-one years young as she still volunteers in schools and writes the most delightful stories of her teaching/principal experiences.

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  12. Your wonderful qualities as a teacher in the classroom may have come to an end Pete, but your wisdom and compassion goes on with your voice and your writing. Your compassion is a great part of what makes you a great teacher. Happy holidays to you and yours Pete. 🙂

    Like

    1. petespringerauthor December 23, 2019 — 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Debby. I appreciate the comments. My students are like my second family to me. I will always be in their corner rooting them on and to offer a word of advice if they ask.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And they are lucky to have you. Merry Christmas Pete 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Well said, Pete. We must do our best to set the example and be a role model. Yes, it is a huge responsibility but it is also a privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 30, 2019 — 8:23 am

      A privilege not to be taken lightly, especially for the sake of children who may not have good role models in their lives. Last week I read something that one of my former students posted on Facebook, “I didn’t grow up having role models. I grew up having people I didn’t want to be like and seeing situations I’d never want to be in. Not all of us are dealt the right cards, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reshuffle your deck for a better outcome.”

      That student had every reason to fail because I remember the horrible hand she was dealt. Yet, she is reshuffling those cards and is attending junior college. She is going to make it; that speaks to her toughness and resiliency. I’m so proud of her!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a wonderful story! You should certainly be very, very proud of her!

        Liked by 1 person

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