Think back to when you were young and in school. Maybe you were in elementary school, or perhaps it was middle or high school. Recall that caring adult you felt especially connected to. Who is that special person for you, that, even after all these years, you still carry in your heart?
Who is your caring adult? That is the question CIS has been asking lately of the caring adults we place in the paths of thousands of Kalamazoo Public School students. As part of our mindfulness training, we’ve asked it of our volunteers and we recently asked it of staff during our back to school training. We ask the question because at CIS, we know that behind every caring adult is a caring adult.
So it is not surprising that many of the caring adults recalled by our staff, volunteers, partners, and friends are teachers. After all, teachers help us learn and think. They teach us lessons about abc’s and place-values in math while they challenge us, love us, and help us believe in ourselves and recognize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. They help us find our place in the world. Maya Angelou said this of teachers: This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.
Below are three letters written by our volunteers and staff. In the months to come, we will be posting more of these letters on our blog. In the meantime, a special thank you to all those teachers—whether you are teaching now, retired, or gone from this world, you make a difference. We can not help but carry the lessons you have taught us and impart them to a new generation of learners.
Mr. Ray Schroeder,
You made everyone feel equal, regardless of their social or economic background. Watching you helped me understand that it isn’t about what you have or don’t have, but how you give back.
Dear Mrs. Mein,
You taught our 12th grade Honors English class a valuable lesson through the infamous summer reading project you assigned—doing what you’re asked (and doing a good job) matters, even if no one is “checking up” on you. Your warmth, humor, and willingness to share yourself with us endeared you to all of us. You seemed to understand what high schoolers needed. I haven’t forgotten the time you let me run out of the room when something someone said got the best of my hormonal teenage self.
Thank you for making each of us feel special and cared about—even if we were the umpteenth class you’ve had—we still felt like we were your favorites!
PS. If it weren’t for you, and your summer reading project, I wouldn’t know who Somerset Maugham is or read Machiavelli’s “The Prince” or deepened my friendship with my high school best friend.
Dear Mr. Lake,
You saw me hide my flute case before band practice. I know you saw me because our eyes met even though you wore the thickest glasses. I tried to polish my flute and make it gleam like the other new ones, but it was just impossible. You saw me and my anxiety and in front of everyone, you said, “It’s not what it looks like, it’s what it sounds like.”
Thank you so much for giving me the space and encouragement to continue when I felt inadequate. You gave me courage to play away and stop worrying about what things may look like to others. I still see your eyes behind those big glasses, nodding me along.
Who is your Mr. Schroeder, your Mrs. Mein, or Mr. Lake? We’d love to know and possibly post your letter (signed or anonymous). If you’d like to be included in this “recalling a caring adult” project, contact Jennifer Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 269.337.1601 x 213.