In my high school English classroom I have a small picture frame with a piece of hair in it and some words that say “Mrs. Weed, here is a lock of hair for remembrance.” Once it is recognized as hair it is immediately the talk of the classroom. So now, not only am I the teacher with the last name of Weed, but I’m also the teacher with a piece of human hair in a frame.
About 6 years ago I taught 12th grade English and I had a student who had a nasty greasy mullet that he had grown and permed just to drive his mom insane. His did have a deal with her, however; he could grow it out right until graduation pictures. Once he had his graduation pictures he had to cut it off. Well, this time quickly came and on a Friday this student was telling me he was going to get his hair cut this weekend and if I wanted any. I off-handedly and dismissively told him, “only if you frame it” and changed the subject quickly because this particular student was a charmer and very good at getting me off topic. Well, as you know, the next Monday he gave me this beautiful, curly, greased lock of hair in a frame. I laughed so hard I cried.
That frame hasn’t left my desk since that time and it never will. Since then, I have moved to another state far away and that story won’t leave me probably for the rest of my life. This story and countless others. Behind my desk, every year, I post what I call “love notes.” These are all the letters, drawings, photos, and random things my 10th and 12th grade students have given me through the years and each has a specific memory to them. Ranging from my stapler in jello to a drawing that says “Welcome to Rapture.” Each of these kids now have lives beyond my classroom, but I got the amazing privilege of having them in my class for 9 months. Each of these kids left an impact on my life and made my heart grow beyond the capacity it was previously thought.
Teachers are definitely underrated and underpaid, but they don’t teach because they want to be recognized or paid the big bucks. Most teachers do what they do because they enjoy the personal benefits that come with working with kids. I guarantee that if you ask a teacher to tell you a story about a student, they will be able to do it immediately: some good, some bad, some sad, all impactful.
Every person who has ever been to an educational institution can do the same as teachers do with students and name at least one teacher who has impacted his or her life at some point. For me, Mrs. Casey, Mrs. Henry, and Dr. Ostenson inspired me to continue to be curious and learn. I do not have the money or power to pay them the millions of dollars they deserve and the promotions they should receive for dedicating their lives to their craft, but I can remember them and pay it forward. I can go to work every day and help inspire a new set of life-long learners.
Many of my students—mullet boy included—have done the same to help me feel honored. I have many students who have gone on to serve our country with pride, students who are now married and starting wonderful families of their own, students who have gone on to receive amazing degrees from prestigious universities, and students who have received national recognition for their participation in athletics. I am so proud of every single one of them because they have worked to better themselves and help others. They haven’t dedicated their successes to me and I don’t necessarily want that, I just want to watch them grow and every now and again brag that I taught some pretty cool people who are making an impact.
Pay it forward; take a moment and think of the teacher(s) that has impacted you and strive to do the same for others.
Samantha Weed is a Masters student in the College of Education