Anyone who has known me since I was young knows that becoming a teacher was an oxymoron for me. As a child, my excitement for school pretty much ended the day I finally got to ride the big yellow bus for the first time in Kindergarten. My biggest gripes were: I had to get up early, I thought school was boring, and I hated being “stuck” in a room with fluorescent lights all day. All I really wanted to do was be outside or doing some form of art. Because of this, I would often just sit at my seat, talk only when necessary, doodle, and look at the clock praying for the end of the day to come sooner than later.
Looking back and talking with my parents, I was often labeled as a kid that was hard to crack and not working to their ability. But, in actuality, I don’t think I was a hard kid to appease. The answer to helping me open up in school was actually very simple: Sit down, talk with me, and make a connection.
My favorite teacher of all time, Mr. O., was a guru at this and continues to inspire and challenge me to try and work at his level of expertise. Mr. O. was my math teacher for three years. Not only did he teach his subject well, but he also took the time to make connections with all of his students.
During my sophomore year of high school I became sick. I was in the emergency room several times that year, at weekly doctor’s appointments, and was very scared. Mr. O. was the teacher who always asked how I was doing, told me that everything was going to be alright, and would talk to me when we didn’t know if things would be ok. This meant the world to me.
I wasn’t the only student that he took the time to make a connection with. I remember him sitting with kids before, during, and after class and talking to them. Oftentimes, past students would visit to say, “Hi,” or just to check in. He always had an open door and we knew we could talk to him about anything.
In 1999, when we got back from winter break, Mr. O did another activity that made everyone love going to class; he made a wish box for us. The wish box involved everyone writing down their hopes and wishes for the new year and for our lifetime. He told us that he was going to make a huge bonfire, burn the box in his backyard, and all of our dreams would float into the atmosphere. Everyone was in awe of this “math“ lesson, and I am positive that anyone he hadn’t made a connection with had one with him now. We all knew that Mr. O not only cared about us as students, but he cared about us as people too. This was such an exciting way to end my senior year of high school.
I still think about the wish box every new year and wonder if the things that came true were because of the box or if it was because I had a teacher who helped me believe in myself. I think it’s a little bit of both.
I don’t know where Mr. O is today, but I would like to thank him for teaching me what I believe to be one of life’s most important lessons; make a personal connection with those around you. So, to honor Mr. O., and teach by example, my class will be creating a wish box and my students’ hopes and dreams will float into the atmosphere like mine did 19 years ago. I hope this activity makes an impression on them, helps them work toward their goals, and assures them that their teachers care about their well-being and future.
Happy 2018 to everyone, and may all of your dreams come true!
Learner, Thinker, Writer: Brooke Ovorus, 4th Grade Teacher