Monday, September 19, 2016

Putting It All Together

"Don't let schooling interfere with your education." -Mark Twain

I'm a about month into a new school year and I've recently been thinking about a conversation I had with a student at the end of the last school year that left me in a good place and carried me into this year. One of the great aspects about being an educator is the beginning of a new year. Last year, was a tough and draining year for me professionally and personally and the department in which I work. Probably one of the toughest years I've endured in my 18 years as a school counselor. It was one of the few times I was very ready for the school year to end and needed distance from school for awhile. From the first day I stepped foot on campus last year, I had to deal with an issue that consumed the entire year, in addition to other crises and tragedies that took place. This conversation that I'm going to share (With permission from the student, he actually encouraged me to share it), took place just prior to the end of last school year; it was an unexpected surprise and ended up being a highlight of my year. As always, I'm excited for the promise of a new school year and curious to see how it is going to unfold.

It was close to 4pm and two days before graduation. I was trying to finish up work so that I could go home for the day, and also finish up end of the school year stuff so that I get that much closer to going on break. As I was deep into paperwork and replying to e-mails, I looked up and there was a student at the threshold of my door. The student looked at me and the papers strewn around my desk and asked, "Mr. Haynes, are you busy?" I love it, I really do (It always brings a smile to my face) when students ask this question when I'm in the middle of many different things. I replied, "What's up? Come in :)." The student entered and proceeded to talk.  He said, "Mr. Haynes, in 14 hours I leave for university, I want to talk about the education I received at ISB, before I leave." This statement stopped me and I said, "Please proceed..." and I just listened (This particular student had won a prestigious scholarship from his home country and as a result, could attend university anywhere in the world. But, his country was requiring him to enroll in a program prior to matriculating to university immediately after school concluded and as a result, he was not able to attend graduation. What's interesting about this young man is that he also earned a scholarship to attend the school where I work. The young man is sharp!).

The student began with,

"When I first entered ISB I was a nerd. Then, he paused, smiled, continued, and said, “I’m still a nerd, but I’m less of one now, Mr. Haynes. ISB helped to make me less narrow and more well-rounded. Before I was curious, but narrow, now, I’m curious and open. As y'know I was a scholarship student. When I earned the scholarship to attend ISB I didn't know what to expect. I quickly learned that ISB was very different from the schools I had attended my whole life and it took some getting used to. Looking back on my education, it is interesting to see how the courses I took in grades 9 and 10 prepared me for the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma Program and now how the IB courses that I took will prepare me for university. But, looking back on things, it was the classes that I wasn't as confident in, didn't want to take, or was skeptical of taking that prepared me well and made me a complete student. Mr. Haynes, you know I love math and science, but it was these classes that made me a complete student:

Theory of Knowledge: I came to love in class discussions.

Drama: Made me a better public speaker.

Jewelry:  I had the art credit to finish and I pretty much waited until senior year to complete it, but y'know what Mr. Haynes, I really enjoyed jewelry class. I got to use tools to manipulate, create, and design. 

English: Made me see the beauty of a well constructed argument. Prior to ISB, I never questioned what I was told. Now, I’m of the mindset, 'There needs to be an explanation for why things are the way they are!' English Literature made me a better scientist. I could write better lab reports, I could question and argue better. I could also better articulate my answers in Math.

Then, in a stream of consciousness, he shared the following: 

"ISB is less restrictive, more open, offers a wide curriculum."

“I remember my Middle School Math teacher telling me to go out and talk to people, to get a life, go live, life is not all about study problems. I admit, I was a study freak.” 

“ISB provides students with multiple perspectives and viewpoints.” 

“The fact that teachers care. My teachers became a part of who I am.  I hear my teachers voices in my head from time to time when I’m in certain situations.”

“Since this is my last day, this is good-bye. I need to share with you that I almost committed suicide a couple years ago. But, it was being able to speak with my teachers openly, especially, my Health teacher that prevented me from doing it.” 

"Mr. Haynes, I know it's late and it's time for us both to go, but I really wanted to share my experience at ISB before I left. It changed my life."

As the student got up to depart my office, I wished him all the best and told him once he got settled to keep in touch. After the student left all I could think was, "Wow!" Did this conversation just take place?! I just sat and thought, for awhile. Taking in all that he just shared, relishing the fact that he wanted me to share his thoughts with others, and thinking how cool it is that the student was able to astutely connect the dots in regards to the broad education he received. After the conversation, I could no longer concentrate on work and said to myself, "Time to head home."

Then, as God would have it, as I was riding my bike home from school, I bumped into the teacher that the student cited as saving his life (She just happened to be riding her bike in the neighborhood). As I was sharing the conversation that I just had, this teacher stared at me in disbelief and said, "I had no idea." Then, after I shared the conversation with her, she looked at me and said, "Thank you for sharing this with me. I needed this right now." And, as I left her and continued my bike ride home I said to myself, "So did I."


Carol said...

"I needed this right now," the teacher said. And it sounds like you did, too, buried in end-of-year paperwork at the end of an especially challenging year.

That's one of many gut-wrenching things about this job. In my experience, it was always right when "I needed" it, when I was questioning myself and my relevance the most, when I was the most frustrated, when I was ready to give up that a kid like this popped up -- in person, in an email, in a Facebook message -- to say thank you. And it made it all worth it.

I love being retired. I do. But I miss having this kind of impact.

P.S. I love that the kid specifically mentioned English and literature! :-)

Bea Toews said...

Thanks Ryan - though no longer teaching in a classroom. hopefully I am still educating and being educated daily. Not with as great impact as the teachers mentioned in your post, certainly. But educating nonetheless.
Have a good year at ISB

Pim Singhatiraj said...

Hi Mr. Haynes, I was looking back through my journal entries and from a couple of pages from February 2017 (entries from Oman), I found a note I made about your blog. You mentioned it to me during a conversation. I’m happy I was able to read some of your posts, especially this one. ISB was such a good experience for me, and without it, I would not be at as good of a school as Middlebury. I was so close to not transferring to ISB and I’m just so grateful I did, because I got to know you as my counselor and my mentor. Thank you for everything you helped me with at ISB, and I hope Taipei is treating you well :)
-Pim, ISB Class of 2017