29 01 2011

(I first told this story to my cohort at our Teacher Education Program Graduation Celebration in June 2010. I thought it was time to re-tell it as it underscores for me the profound influence a teacher can have on a Middle School student – BH)

Tim was a gangly 12-year old who had just made the transition from Gr. 6 to his new school – a middle school. And on this particular day early on in Tim’s Gr. 7 year, his class was about to take PE. He walked into the gymnasium and there was a trampoline set up right in the middle. And he got very excited, because Tim had never jumped on a trampoline before in his life. The teacher came out and saw everyone gathered around that thing, he gave a few opening words, looked around, made eye contact with Tim and said “Son take off your shoes, leave on your socks, climb up on here and follow my instructions.” So the new student proceeded to take off his shoes and when he did, he noticed that he happened to have to have holes in both of his socks (and not just little ones or snags). And one of Tim’s friends also happened to notice that and took it upon himself to make sure everyone else in the class knew about this as well. Nice friend.

Now as all teachers know, in Grade 7, kids can be unusually cruel in social situations like this and Tim was obviously distraught at the embarrassing situation he found himself in. He got up onto the trampoline and did exactly what the teacher told him to do. He followed the instructions to the letter and decided in those moments that when he got home, he was going straight to his sock drawer and he was going to throw out every sock that had the semblance of a hole in them. He would never, ever let this happen to him again.

He finished the trampoline demonstration and stood there while the teaching continued and the whole time he’s thinking, “Man, I really hate being up here in front of everybody.” When the class was finished, the teacher dismissed everybody and he took off. Tim went and got his shoes, put them on. He went to the stage and got his books and as he was walking around the corner to get to his next class, he heard his name, “Tim wait up.  It was the Gym teacher calling out to him. The teacher pulled him aside and said, “Tim I wanted you to know why I called on you for the demonstration.” He said, “You’re the most agile student in my class.”

And then Tim’s teacher reached down and untied his running shoe. And he had this big hole in his sock. He said, “Us agile guys, we’re pretty tough on socks, aren’t we? Now go to class.”

So he heads down the hall and the whole way there, He thinks to himself, “What’s agile?” He had never heard the word before. He was going to English class and he remembered that they had these big dictionaries in the back of the room and that teachers loved it when you looked up a word without having to be asked and so he looked up agile. Now he was glad that he didn’t come across the word argyle, because that would have really been confusing.

He found the word “agile” and learned for the first time in his life that he could move with speed, ease, elegance and liveliness. He found out for the first time that he was mentally alert and very quick. He burned that definition into his brain.  He did a 180 degree turn in 2 major areas of his life – Academics and Athletics. Good things to be good at when you’re in Grade 7. He had been told all of his life that he was just an average student (not after that). And he was told that he was just a utility player (not after that) and at that time there was the challenge of who could do the most sit ups in the school. And wouldn’t you know it, it was Tim who set the record that year.

And those sit-ups weren’t those 1/2 speed crunch-style-bill- jimbob-tie-bo things. He could do a million of those. No, these were the arthritis casuing things that they don’t let kids do anymore. Get this – your legs had to flat on the ground, (not knees bent) no, you had to have a partner sit on your feet. You had to come all the way up, cross over your body and touch your elbow to your feet and all the way down again. He did over 500 of these and as he retells that story he points out that his stomach muscles hurt for several days. But he didn’t care, because he was “agile”.

It took several days for him for him to put all of the pieces together. Why his gym teacher took off so fast after class. (He had to get to the PE office, pull off his shoes, open the drawer of his desk, get the scissors, quickly cut the toes off his socks, put his shoes back on and race to catch up to his student). He didn’t go around with holes in his socks. He was a PE teacher, he got new socks and shoes every year – it was part of his contract.

He saw an embarrassed kid, a vulnerable Gr. 7 student that needed help. He had the ability and the desire to help and so he set out to correct the situation in a pretty memorable way.

Fellow colleagues, we need to be reminded that kids today have these kinds of moments all the time and they need teachers like this one to recognize the situation, to humble themselves and to seize a moment of grace to alter a child’s life. We too can be teachers that have a tremendous amount of influence in the lives of our students.




3 responses

30 01 2011
Justin (@newfirewithin)

Cool story with a great point. I always wonder if stories like this are true? It doesn’t really change the value of it. We as teachers have a tremendous amount of influence that we can wield. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

30 01 2011

Heard it on a Tim Kimmel video we watched with out Care Group. I believe it was true, but you’re right – the value doesn’t change. Thanks for the comment!

6 02 2011
Anna Lownie

The impact of this story does not change – it made a lasting impressing in June and even more so now as I journey my way through different classrooms. The biggest lesson I can move forward is that the amount of time spent with a student is incidental, as long as the connection was authentic. Sometimes just standing at the classroom door with a gentle smile and warm greetings in the morning can be enough of a message to say “I am here if you need me.” Thanks again for sharing this wonderful story.

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