Found on a teacher's desk: "They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel."
She hung her head low and kept quiet. Her light brown hair fell past her shoulders, hiding her face. The rest of the class was rowdy and talkative. I handed out their papers and told them to quiet down during their work. It took them a while to settle. I walked around the room as their once-loud voices were hushed. I could hear their pencils scribbling away furiously, getting their work finished quickly. I stopped at her desk, realizing she hadn't even started to write. I saw a small wet spot on her paper. When I bent down to check her face, I could see that she was crying.
I asked her why she hadn't begun her work. She mumbled an answer, so low that I had to repeat the question. Again, a low-audible response.
"Sweetie, I can hardly hear you. Let's get this hair out of your face and your hand away from your mouth." I repeated the question a third time.
This time I heard her. And her answer broke my heart. "Because I'm stupid."
Holding back my tears, I had to swallow to find my voice. "Why on earth would you say something like that?"
Again, her voice -so low- said sadly, "Because it's true. My momma says so, so it must be true."
For fifteen minutes she and I worked on her work together. I found out something quite surprising. She knew all the answers on her own! I told her just how smart she really is. By the time we were finished, her head was no longer down, her face no longer sad. She looked confident.
This happened four years ago, my first year as a substitute teacher. She was in the first grade. Now, she is in the fifth grade and she stopped me the other day as I was walking in the halls (subbing for a different class). She reminded me of this day and told me that I changed her life, helped her feel so much better about herself.
It made me feel so good. As a substitute teacher, you really don't get to do too much. You see some of the same kids, watch them grow each year, and just hope that you say and do the right thing just to get them through their day.