A Teacher’s Tale: The Power of Reflection
The sudden death of one of my former students shook me. The news came in the form of a phone call from my principal on October 1, 2017 on a Sunday afternoon, “He died…it was a very tragic death…I wanted to call personally because I knew how much you loved him…” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was in shock. How could this happen? I felt as if it were just yesterday when we celebrated his 1st grade graduation, him showing off his magical smile, then quickly rushing off to celebrate with his family. I just couldn’t believe it.
So I tried to proceed with life the next couple of days. My current students still needed me to teach them so I needed to be present to facilitate their growth and development. Everything was okay until news started to spread among the parents and then spread among the students.
“Someone keeps saying that he passed out!”
“I heard he got hurt!”
“I don’t believe this, I don’t believe anything you guys are telling me!”
“But my mom told me he’s gone!”
These were the comments I overheard that Wednesday morning as I was walked through the 2nd grade hallway, filled with my former students from the previous school year, which were his former classmates.
“Is it true?! Did he really pass out?” They all looked to me for confirmation.
“He didn’t pass out…he passed away,” I gently whispered. Their faces were filled with shock and disbelief.
“You’re going to talk about this more with your teachers and parents soon,” I stated as I comforted them. I was overwhelmed with emotion at that moment so I rushed off to find the counselor to share what just happened and to grapple with my own feelings.
I kept my emotions bottled up until that moment. My former students’ reactions unraveled these emotions which allowed me to confront the situation (but it really hit home once I attended the funeral).
So I began to reflect for the next couple of days on the role I played in my former student’s young life. Even though he was very active, got distracted easily, and was the life of the class, I very much enjoyed his presence and reminisced on all the times he put a smile on my face or made me laugh. Then I felt at peace because I assisted in providing him with the best possible and last, full educational experience. I remembered that my daily prayer throughout that school year (2016-2017) was for God to continue to give me peace, that my gentleness be evident to all, and not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:4-7).
Then I reflected on the true meaning of love:
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
When my principal stated “I knew how much you loved him,” she was right. I displayed my love towards him and all of my former students by displaying patience, showing kindness, and by giving them the respect they deserve as our future world leaders. Although I am not perfect, I strive to give my students the best of me and continue to love them despite any challenges or obstacles. Love never fails.
I would not have realized all this if not for the power of reflection. I am not the same person I was yesterday, last month, or even last year. I choose to reflect on my successes and my flaws. Then I pray that I’ll continue to grow into the best teacher that I can possibly be for my students and that other educators are doing the same.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13