By: Shay Williams-Hopper, CATA President-Elect
Getting the mail is my favorite part of the day. While I know that on most days my mail is going to be filled with junk flyers and bills, every once in a while, peeking out from the bills is a special gift, written with love, a note from a family member or friend. I always smile as I run my hands over the seams, wondering what the message inside will be. Occasionally, it is a thank you note, sometimes it is a card just to say hi, but regardless of the message, the feeling of receiving that letter makes my day 100 percent better, each and every time.
In the 2018 school year, I had a student named Dominic who was that squirrely, ninth grade, jokester boy. You know the kid, the one that shows up everyday, and begs for your attention in the most unappealing ways. Dominic and I found a mutual understanding and we were able to work together with each other on most days. At the start of that school year, I decided to write 100 notes home to students in 100 days. In my 14 years of teaching, I often neglected to call home to tell parents about the amazing things their students accomplished in my classroom. This was the year, I was going to change that. I made some postcards through VistaPrint, that said ‘Positive Parent Mail….not a bill, not junk mail, just a note to tell you how awesome your child is!” and got to work. Each day, I picked one student to send a note home about, thanking their parents for raising children who quite frankly are incredible.
Then came that day. Nothing was going right, and I was just in a mood. When Dominic walked in that day, I was not in the mood for shenanigans. He sat close to my desk, walked in, looked at me and asked, “Are you okay Mrs. Williams? You look like you are not okay today.” I admitted to him that he was right, it was that day, but I would be fine. I mean, I am a professional, and I will push through it because my students deserved that from me. I saw a shift in Dominic in that minute. He made a decision to work hard, help out when needed, and rallied the class to do the same. He made my letter that day, a simple choice. As the class left, I pulled out a postcard and wrote a note to his mom to tell her how much I appreciate Dominic and was lucky to have him in class. Stamped it and dropped it in the mail and forgot about it.
A week later, in the middle of class, I received a call from the front office telling me that a parent was demanding to speak with me right now. Of course my mind raced, I was quickly running the events of the day, last week, and month through my head trying to determine who I had angered. When the call was transferred to me, this parent introduced herself to me as Dominic’s mom. She had received my letter and only had her 10 minute break at work to call me. She began to cry and thanked me for the note. She told me that she was a single parent who often struggled with raising Dominic and his siblings while working full time. In all of his schooling, Dominic never received a compliment from a teacher. The only time a teacher called was when a problem arose, which with Dominic, was often. She thanked me, and told me how proud of her son she was and couldn’t wait to share the card with her son. The next day, when Dominic walked into class, he immediately came over and gave me the world’s largest hug. It completely caught me off guard! He told me how his mom shared the postcard with him, and it now hung on his refrigerator at home. It made a difference for that kid. Did it change Dominic forever…of course not, but it did give him a push in the right direction in my classroom, on campus and at home.
In a time when student morale and emotions are at an all time low, I challenge you to take a minute and write a note to one student or their parent. Share with them the amazing things you have learned about them this year. Bring that moment of joy and excitement to their mailbox. Lead with your heart forward and teach your students to do the same.
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/