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Am I Making This a Bigger Deal Than It Is?

Something happened at school this past Spring that has stuck with me. I initially thought my feelings would fade, but this small-moment story is still stirring things in me that I'm trying to discern.

I was walking across our playground during recess time and a teacher who was playing football with students invited me to join their game. Some of the students encouraged me to play quarterback and I was happy to accommodate. Meanwhile, the teacher was playing defense while chatting with students.

My first pass attempt didn't go so well, but after my arm loosened up a little I managed to connect with a student who caught a short pass near the middle of the field. After making the catch he casually jogged past his teacher to get ready for the next play. As he was jogging, his teacher shared something I'll never forget.

"This is Luke and he has great hands."

At face value, the teacher's comment was spot on. Luke definitely had great hands because the ball I threw him was not pretty. While I appreciated the sincere manner in which the teacher noticed the student's skill, I picked up on something deeper in the teacher's words. It might have been the tone of voice or the unassuming manner in which they were communicated...but I think those words were meant for me.

[Partially-related aside] You might think this is really obvious based on the fact the comment was directed to me, but let’s be honest. Sometimes we say or “notice things” aloud about students and share them with other adults when we actually want the students to receive the feedback. I don’t think that’s what was happening here.

The teacher was introducing me to a more complete version of the student by connecting his name to one of his strengths. It was such a subtle comment that it feels weird to be writing about now, but maybe that's why I need your help. Because here's what I keep coming back to (and I don't think I'm making this up).

The teacher knew the student so well that the words of affirmation were authentically connected to the student's name. They seemed inseparable. "This is Luke and he has great hands."

Several months have passed, but I'm thinking this story is bigger than recess. I also think it transcends the classroom (as great teaching often does). For me, the story highlights the profound influence we have when we know the learner. Given how inspired I felt when this played out during recess...I can only imagine how Luke and his classmates feel on a regular basis.

I'm thankful for all the educators who do this on a daily basis. They model the kind of leader I aspire to be. I want to know their names, see their strengths, and help our school be a special place that values the whole learner.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and perspective on this. (And I wouldn't blame anyone for rolling their eyes at me given how routine this story probably sounds.) Maybe it's a classic case of "you had to be there" or maybe it's because you are there each and every day.

Whatever the case...thank you.



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