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Celebrating our teacher heroes this #TeacherAppreciationWeek.

Have you ever been to a marathon?

The energy and excitement that all the runners feel at the start often dissipates throughout the race. Energy fades; doubt creeps in; surrounded by others, we can feel totally isolated. It’s one of the reasons roadside race fans show up with cowbells, inspiring signs and shouts of encouragement. Those screams of encouragement can make all the difference.

For parents and students alike, the arrival of May feels a bit like the last leg of a marathon. We’ve been running since August, can almost see the finish line, but we’re wiped out.

Rather than viewing ourselves as the runner, though, let’s adopt the persona of those fervent roadside race fans showing up with cowbells, inspiring signs and shouts of encouragement. And rather than cheering for the runners, let’s raise our voices for the real athletes in this race as we sprint toward the completion of the school year — our TEACHERS!

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and in honor of those heroes AND in celebration of the 2nd anniversary of IN AWE, I wanted to share one of my favorite stories from the book. It will remind you we all need someone cheering us forward and it will encourage you to embrace that role. In doing so we change the world one life at a time. Starting with our own.

*****

Fitting In

Amy Crawford is a fifth-grade teacher.

She has been serving children in Knoxville, TN for more than thirty years.

Early in Amy’s career, she saw firsthand how important her job was.

There was a boy in her class who was often disengaged. He was rude to others, and indifferent to her efforts to bring him out of his shell. He turned assignments in late. He was disrespectful. In short, he was the kind of kid who is easy to give up on. Afterall, if someone isn’t even willing to try, why should we put forth all the effort?

One day while Amy was cleaning up papers around his desk, she found a poem he’d written.
Reading the poem changed her life. And in time, his.

I Am the Piece That Never Fits
I am the piece that never fits.
I wonder why people hate me for who I am
I hear the cry of loneliness that comes from me
I see my sad, strange, different self in the mirror
I want someone on my side
I am the piece that never fits.
I pretend that words can never hurt me
I feel the urge to run away from myself
I touch the wet tear from my eye rolling down my face
I worry my future will be me, myself, and I
I cry because I am the cheese; everyone is the mouse
I am the piece that never fits.
I understand that no one likes me
I say that there is no place for people like me in the world
I dream of a place where I actually fit in
I try to make new friends,
And I hope to, but still
I am the piece that never fits.

As Amy held this piece of paper and read its heartfelt message, she was overcome by emotion. She walked into school the next day with a new passion to show this child that he had a place in her classroom. She spent every day of the rest of that school year seeking to become a friend to a young boy who felt he had no one. She encouraged the boy who felt he didn’t fit in to realize the beauty of all of our jagged edges.

In time, with love, with grace, with intentional focus, by surrounding him with supportive friends and introducing him to new mentors, the little author of the poem began to fit in.

Today, he’s a college graduate, gainfully employed, happily married, and passionate about life. Without a doubt, he most certainly fits.

Here’s the truth: In our enormous human family, there is no such thing as individual that has no value. There is no such thing as an accidental life. There is no such thing as a piece that doesn’t fit. When we insist on standing off to the side, isolated, we may feel like a jagged piece, and it is hard to accept that we belong.

But when we are joined to the whole—especially with the help of a teacher—we see that together, we create a beautiful masterpiece. Our jagged pieces are perfect. They have purposes. They are our power.

*****

We do fit in.

Our lives do matter.

We’re far better together.

And the best is yet to come.

Great reminders as we run the journey forward.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.

3 replies on “Finishing Strong”

Deb Ringler was my art/ceramics teacher at Hutchinson High School in Hutchinson, Kansas. She was such an incredible teacher for me and a lot of my close friends and truly helped inspire and guide us into where we are in our careers as creatives today. She has continued teaching and cultivating incredible creative talent out of HHS over the years and is retiring this year! I am so thankful for Deb and all that she did for me and all of the other students who were lucky enough to learn from from her! You’re amazing! 🙂

Here is a cheer for all the teachers that do amazing work outside their academic curriculum even in an environment where they themselves are struggling like “The Piece that Never Fits.” Many schools are mine fields of politics and poor social interactions. Yet because the teacher loves their students they selflessly persevere.

Shannon Hersh is a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students. She cares, she relates and she listens to her students. She creates value to what she teaches, but more importantly she values her students for who they are.

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