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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Even our off-hand comments make a difference.

I have only recently become a Facebook user. I resisted and resisted and I'm still not real comfortable with it.

But I'm learning. It feels important to have a genuine and well-rounded social media presence. To be a full member of the digital society. And, like it or not, that includes Facebook.

My biggest reservation about Facebook is my own personal separation of "church and state." The need and desire to keep firm boundaries between my personal life and my professional role as a teacher.

Facebook comes with prior students and I just haven't quite found a comfortable stance on how to handle that.

Right now, I pretty much just only friend or accept friend requests from previous students who are already friends with other teachers who I am friends with. Does that even make sense? It is an imperfect solution.

Anyway, I was poking around one day, scrolling through my "feed" (That is the right nomenclature, isn't it?)

As I skimmed the various postings, mostly from educational groups and organizations that interest me, but also from friends and family, I came across a message to one of my colleagues:

"Ms. Martin! I am a student ambassador for the School of Medicine, and the other day at our training I was thinking about how I started on my journey through medical school... when I realized that it was actually you who introduced me to and first told me about the 6-year medical program at UMKC.
It was near the end of my junior year of high school, a couple months before I would start applying for college, and you mentioned to me that a doctor you had recently seen had graduated from a 6-year medical program. You said it offhandedly, because you thought it was neat... little did I know that your one seemingly meaningless comment would lead me to the path that I took!
I guess it's just a little funny the way that things work out- I thought I would share this memory with you that you probably don't have stored away, but for me it was a pretty poignant conversation! Just as a little update: I am in my third year out of the six year program. I am currently in my last semester of medical school classes before I start rotations in August. (I'm sorry to say that I have not used math in any of my courses except for chemistry... two years ago.) And I have two exams that I need to study for that I am procrastinating by sharing this tidbit with you!
I hope all is well with you and good ol' Ritenour. Have a wonderful weekend!
Marjorie F"

I contacted both Marjorie and Ms. Martin for permission to share this posting. It is an especially well-articulated incident of how much we mean to our students. Of how much we matter to them. Of how much we shape them and their futures. 

I mean, how amazing is this? How beautiful a reminder that everything we do, and everything we say, every single day, matters. That even our off-hand comments make a difference.

We all know, intellectually, we make a difference. That knowledge is what sustains through all the "bovine feces" of day to day life in a public school. But some days knowing we make a difference in our hearts is really hard.

Most of us get a few personal reminders of the strength of our influence in our careers. The rare student who, as a successful adult, says thank you in a meaningful way.

Those reminders are rarely so well-crafted, so out-of-the-blue, so public as this one was. And, of course, they are the tiniest tip of the iceberg of our influence.

Though it is about Ms. Martin, it can give us all hope and solace when we are feeling overworked, frustrated, under-appreciated, and generally burned out.

So I wanted to share it with you and say:

Thank you, Marjorie. Thank you for the reminder that we matter and we make a difference. Thank you for sharing this very specific moment of impact with us. This was a very good thing. It made my day. It makes every day I re-read it a little bit better.

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