Sunday, February 19, 2012

The :) File

One of the best pieces of professional advice I ever received was to create a "smile" or "happy memories" file. As a teacher you work hard and sometimes the days and months and years can begin to flow together. A wise person told me that it would be important to file away little notes, pictures, and small treasures that would remind you that yes you are appreciated, yes you are changing lives, yes the hard work is all worth it.

My :) File is a purple, legal size folder from my 3 years of teaching. It has no real order to it, but sometimes when I miss teaching, and some days when I miss the working family I had created, and some days when I just need a reminder, well I flip open that folder.

It does not take long for the flowery pictures, the bold colors, the childish sentences, and the cards to uplift me. My wise mentor was right....this file was one of the best things I could have done.

Among the many fond and precious memories of children and families is a simple email. It was the first note of appreciation that I received and it means so, so much because the parent who sent it was a father who was a graduate student at FSU. He was raising his daughter in the states while his wife and the rest of his family were still in China. I can only imagine how difficult that had to be. Anyway, at the very start of my teaching journey during my Freshman year I did volunteer work at a local elementary school. I was assigned to V, a precious little girl who spoke very limited and halting English. She was in 3rd grade and yet we worked on handmade vocabulary cards about place words like up, underneath, and over. We would "read" together and sometimes just be together because the language barrier was difficult.

As I was about to leave for the term, so was V. She and her father were moving because her mother was finally going to be able to join the family. I was so excited for her, because without words I knew she missed her mama deeply. Anyway, a few weeks before our last time together her father sent me this.
Hello Sabrina,
How are you? This is J and I am V's dad. V mentions you many times, and she always has a good time to learn English with you. Anyway, I appreciate your gracious help.
Best wishes,
J and V
I will never know how he got my email. I will never know what his family ended up doing and where they settled. Yet, this simple email gave me such encouragement. It literally surprised me and warmed my heart. I was 18 then, I was enjoying my FSU days, and this note helped fan the flame that had been sparked earlier. Teaching was for me. Elementary children were my especial joy. Not everyone is so sure at such a young age that they have entered the right profession. But.... I was. I knew it, just as deeply as I knew my own name. Teaching was for me and I was for it and together, well together we were a force to be reckoned with:)

I hope no matter where you work, you keep some type of "smile" file. Maybe yours is not even work related. Maybe yours is centered around your family, or your spouse, or your friends. But I think the work file is important because we spend so much of our time working, and a part of the big picture of who we are, is who we are at work. Another week is upon us. We are moving right along and Spring will be approaching sooner than we think!

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