One of the joys of teaching at Ursuline College is that I often get to teach women (and an occasional man) who come back to college after being away for many years. I am constantly amazed at their courage as they turn a new corner in their lives, a corner that is often difficult and brings with it a new set of challenges. Although my job is to teach math, I often find myself being as much a cheerleader as a math teacher, as I convince people who have raised multiple children that they, can, indeed, learn the material I am teaching. I am in awe of the fact that they have managed to raise children to adulthood, while I struggle with being a parent for just one child. I thought of them recently as I looked to the end of the school year, a year that had reminded me of how courageous those students can be.
When my daughter switched schools this past year, it was as if we entered a black hole. We knew what we were leaving, and why we were leaving it, but we didn’t know what we were entering. We also knew that she would face challenges in whatever school she entered, and hoped that we could find a school that would work with her. It was at once both a very frightening and a very hopeful time.
Thankfully, this past year has been wonderful, and she has blossomed at her new school. Being in a larger school with a more diverse population has been a good thing for her. While the adjustment was not completely smooth, it eventually fell in place, and by the middle of this school year, she was doing well academically and had formed a circle of friends that she socializes with. I find myself wondering why we didn’t start at this school, and why it took us so long to find it, but realize that I should be thankful that we did find it in time.
As the school year draws to a close, I find myself wanting to give a small gift to her teacher and to several other people who have helped her make the transition, and I find myself searching for ideas. While I will probably give some people boxes of chocolate, I want to do something very special for her amazing teacher, who has restored my faith in education. My current idea is to tape a picture I have of my daughter and her teacher inside a book, accompanied by a handwritten note there about how much her extra efforts have meant to us.
When I applied for my final promotion several years ago, I dedicated my dossier to a teacher whose influence was critical to my own education when I was very young. I suspect that my daughter will look back on this teacher and feel the same way about her. I cannot say, for sure, however, whether she will dedicate a dossier to her some day, or where her own academic life will take her.
I am struggling, however, in finding an appropriate book to give her. I want something that celebrates the role of the teacher, especially the teacher who goes beyond the norm to help students who need extra attention. Although I have spent my life in academia, I am at a loss for ideas of what that book should be.
And so, since my readers tend to some up with good ideas when asked, I want to ask you for ideas for a book (preferably hard covered- the old fashioned kind.) I am also looking for ideas for the principal and support staff, who have guided her through this year of transition. Do you have any ideas, especially ideas that have been successful for you?
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