Sunday, March 21, 2010

Giving Credit Where It's Due: History Day Post Part II

March 21, 2010

I've always believed in giving credit where it's due. When a waitress has done a great job, I like to let her manager know. When I get good customer service in a store, I seek out the owner of the establishment to acknowledge the strengths of their employee. In a world of cookie cutter businesses, what stands out most is the individual people who make a difference one-on-one. Too often, those managers and bosses hear only the complaints when things go wrong.

The same is true in education. We read in the newspapers about the teachers who shouldn't be in the classroom due to poor moral character. We see on the news teachers who have made bad judgments with unfortunate outcomes. Those are the few salacious stories that seem to speak for the profession all too often. We don't hear often enough about the hard-working teachers who give of themselves in a way that really makes a difference to kids in a one-on-one, everyday sort of way. They do it not just because it's their job, but because it's their passion. So when I encounter a teacher who has made an impact beyond what is expected, I think it is important to share my appreciation not just with them, but with their principals and district administrators as well. Nicholas' History Day coach and Academic Block teacher is one of those who has made such an impression on me, so yesterday I sent the following email to both her and her principal:


I want to thank you again for all of the hard work and dedication that you put into helping Nicholas and all of the History Day kids be successful in their entries. Though the whole process can be, at times, a bit overwhelming, especially for a kid whose organizational skills aren't always his strong suit, you helped him follow through and recognize that he could, in fact, not only handle it but that he could create something that was interesting and something he could really be proud of. I am very proud of his final product and all of his hard work.

Nicholas has struggled off and on throughout his academic career with both social and organizational skills. He's a very intelligent young man and is very much a people-pleaser, and like almost any kid you meet, thrives most when he knows he's valued, accepted, and liked for who he is. I feel very blessed that Nicholas hit your class at a transitional period in his life--the transition to middle school--that can be either a traumatic change or a new and exciting open door. With your help, as well as other fantastic adults such as Mr. Blizzard who have encouraged him on your campus, Nicholas has blossomed. His love for history has only solidified not only through History Day but through your class itself, and he's a much more confident learner. He believes in himself because he knows he's got people (besides his parents) who believe in him and recognize and celebrate the strengths he brings to the table.

I was a little worried that Nicholas might be discouraged by the fact that so many of his schoolmates came home from the competition with medals when he did not, but although he was truthfully a little down, he loved that he got such positive feedback from both you and Mr. Blizzard after the event. As a matter of fact, after a few moments of silence on our car ride home he turned to me and said, "So, I wonder what next year's topic is going to be?" and then he asked if he might talk to you about presenting his board to his classmates to share what he had learned. Medal or no, that is success.

So thank you, thank you again. Nicholas is truly lucky to have you as a teacher this year, and I certainly hope that he is fortunate enough to have other influential people like yourself in his future, who recognize the power that they have to touch kids in an important and meaningful way.

P.S.--Please thank your daughter for me as well, who offered Nicholas some very kind and encouraging words after the awards. It's one thing to hear your parents tell you they're proud of you, or even your teacher, but to hear it from another adult who doesn't have the same kind of vested interest in you--that's pretty cool.


She wrote me back, and told me I made her cry. That's okay; we're even. Her response made me cry, too.


  1. That made me cry too! It's true. It's easy to only let people know when they've done something wrong. This is so nice to see, Donna.

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  3. That is just AWESOME! I, too, am someone who likes to acknowledge the good in the world. She sounds like a great teacher and human being. :-)

  4. That last comment is from ME! My damn hubby never logs off. LOL

  5. Oh, good teachers make my heart melt. I like to fantasize that I would have made a great teacher, but I know that I would never have had the patience and fortitude to stick it out.

    You wrote such a lovely letter-your expressions surely made her day. :)

  6. Amen to that girl! Betsy Clemmings is a wonder! we are so very blessed to be priviledged partakers of the richness that is embodied in our Buchanan educational complex. You too are a wonder. I knew that but, this year it can home as I see how you inspire, encourage, and affirm my Megan. I also see how you do that for so many of your students. What a gift you have!! thank you for meeting your calling with excellence and most of all with caring and heart!