I'm sure you know the story of the guy who was throwing starfish into the water. Somebody came up and told him there were too many to save, and he just kept throwing them in one by one, saying "Made a difference to that one!" That's how I feel about teaching: there's WAY too many starfish for me to save them all, but I can do something big for some of them! Today, I had TWO starfish-saving moments:
1. It's 7th grade lunch duty (the second of my two lunch duties in a row in the fall and definitely NOT my favorite time of the day!) and I'm walking around dismissing tables to go up to the lunch line. As I approach the next table, I see the following scene unfold:
Kid #1 (who has behavioral issues and is a little on the large side for a 7th grader) has his hand spread obnoxiously a few inches away from Kid #2's (who is sweet, quiet, and QUITE on the small side for a 7th grader) face. Kid #2 backs away, saying "Don't!" Kid #1 responds by doing the Darth Vader thing where he tries to choke you from afar by pinching his fingers together.
I walk up and give Kid #1 a look. "He told you to stop!"
Kid #1: "I wasn't doing ANYTHING. I was just doing this." (He re-enacts the whole thing as if I hadn't seen: puts his hand in Kid #2's face, then does the Darth Vader thing.) Kid #2 backs away again.
me: "Well he didn't like that and he asked you to stop. It's really important to stop when someone asks you."
With a resigned look (and after a little more protesting), Kid #1 puts his hands down and turns away from Kid #2 to resume a normal sitting position at the table. I dismiss the table and Kid #1 goes to get his lunch, along with several other students. Kid #2 stays seated, and as I start to walk away, looks up earnestly and says "Thank you!" with a very grateful look in his eyes. Must've been a bigger deal than I thought!
2. We had shortened classes this afternoon with a pep rally at the end of the day, so my last class (6th graders) was supposed to go to their lockers and then the pep rally when we finished. I close the door and start to walk toward the gym, after finally shooing everyone out of my room amid many questions about what the pep rally was going to be like. One of my sweetest girls comes running up to me, pigtails flying and eyes wide, still carrying her books.
Girl: "My locker's jammed! I can't put my stuff away!"
me: "It's ok, don't worry. Let's just put your stuff back in my room for now."
I unlock the door and we throw her books and binders on a table and head off to the pep rally. As we walk (pretty much alone since almost everyone else is already nearing the gym), I tell her that I'll find a custodian and have him/her work on the locker during the pep rally. "It's a good thing we have the pep rally or you would've missed your bus by now!" She grins and giggles and we chit-chat until we reach the cafeteria, where I spot a custodian. I send the girl into the gym, assuring her that her locker will be fixed by the time the pep rally is over.
After the pep rally, I have no idea whether the custodian fixed the locker, since I was in the pep rally the whole time. I speed-walk to my room to unlock the door and wait for the little 6th-grader to come get her stuff. As she grabs her pile of books, she asks if the locker is fixed.
"I don't know but the custodian told me she'd fix it, so I bet it is!"
"I hope so..." her eyes are unsure and a little fearful.
"Well, I'll walk down with you and watch you open it, just to be sure! If it's not fixed, I'll be right there to run and find a custodian!"
"YAY!!!!" She literally jumps with happiness, pigtails bouncing.
We head to her locker together and I watch her open it -- it works on the first try! She looks over her shoulder at me with a big grin and I clap, wave goodbye, and walk back to my room.
Made a difference to those two.