About 4 years ago, I had one of those crazy-ideas-that-sounds-good-because-you-haven’t-really-thought-through-all-of-the-obstacles. In a nutshell, I invited the parents of my students (I teach a GT pull-out program, K-5) to send in videos of themselves telling their children how much they matter to them. I used Aurasma Studio to create augmented reality experiences so that whenever the students scanned their parents’ pictures in their folders, they would see and hear the video of encouragement and love.
The project turned out to be much harder than I expected, but the results were good. The students were surprised and excited, and I learned a lot more about them and their families through the videos that I received. However, by the end of the year the novelty was gone and I suspected most of the printed parent pictures needed to trigger the videos got thrown away with all of the other school supplies that were zealously surrendered in order to make room for summer fun. In my mind, the “You Matter” Augmented Reality Project was something I was grateful I had done but would probably never choose to do again.
Flash forward to last school year. One of my 5th grade students lost his mother in a tragic accident that stunned the whole community. In the usual way that we try to comfort people who have suffered such a loss, I attended the rosary and told my student that I would be “there for you.” I felt more useless than I ever have in my teaching career.
But then I remembered that this young man was in my class years ago when I did the “You Matter” project. I went home and searched my Aurasma account for his mother’s video. It had been one of my “obstacles” at one point because she was late with the video and then wasn’t sure how to send it to me. But it eventually arrived. And, years later, it was still stored in my account.
I downloaded the video to a USB drive. A few weeks later, I called the student to my room, and explained to him what was in the envelope I was giving him. I told him that he may not be ready to watch it now, but that it would be there for him when he needed to remember how much his mother loved him. He took the envelope from me, smiled through his tears, and walked away.
He may never watch the video. He may lose the USB drive or delay watching it until USB drives are obsolete (but that’s okay, because I have several different backups now!) . But instead of voicing hollow platitudes I was able to genuinely express how much he mattered to me by making a small effort to remind him how much he mattered to his mother.
A few lessons learned from this experience:
- Never expect that people “just know” they matter. What you say to them and how you treat them are equally important.
- Educators (and parents) often don’t see the positive effects of our actions. We should never regret the efforts we put into something that seemingly did not have the results we expected – as long as we know we were trying to do what is best for kids.
- Time developing relationships is never wasted time.
As the beginning of the school year approaches for many of us, I urge you to do all that you can to let students know that they matter to you. Not so test scores will improve or behavior issues will decrease. But because: