This past February my class, with the help of Russ Schipper, participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count through Cornell University. Russ has been coming in to lead this adventure for the past several years. This year was especially cold and windy. The smaller winter birds that frequent our bird feeders were all undercover keeping warm. It was bitter cold but we did see a red-tailed hawk, several mourning doves, a seagull and some American crows. We recorded our findings (along with thousands of other citizen scientists) on the Cornell Ornithology website. We watched in real time as results came in from all over the world. We cheered when a spot that looked like South Haven lit up on the map. Our finds were submitted! Thank you Russ!
This year, after our outdoor adventure, we had another guest, Bob Linderman come in and shared the trip he took with National Geographic to Antarctica. He brought in a video of his adventure and told stories of this amazing place. It was fun to see the penguins and other sea creatures (they would have been at home with our cold temperatures that day). Thank you Bob! Bob is a retired teacher. I worked with Bob a couple of years and he was generous to my students and myself. He kept an eye out on our bird feeders and at random times he would stop into our classroom and in a gruff voice say, "Mrs. Linstrom, it looks like you need to fill those bird feeders! Do you think you can spare a couple of students to help me fill them for you?" This was always a welcomed interruption and a couple of lucky students would go out with Mr. Linderman and fill the feeders. Bob is also known for his dedication to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Although I don't know him well, he is well loved by many, many students in our district.
This past Saturday, I had the wonderful pleasure of sitting down with a friend. She has worked as a substitute teacher for many years in the South Haven Schools. She was my long-term sub when I needed that support. She is not subbing this year, as she is struggling with a cancer diagnosis and is too weak to work. On Friday, at the very end of the day, the students and I were sharing our weekend plans. I told them that I was going to visit Mrs. Gruber. All of my students started buzzing . . . "I haven't seen her in a long time . . . Where is she? I miss her . . . She was so nice. . . " I shared with them that she was too sick to sub and that she was dealing with lung cancer. There was a collective sigh and one student piped up, "My mom had cancer five years ago and she's doing great!" My students asked that I say hello to her from them. They all know her from various days that she had stepped into their classrooms and they remembered her for her fairness, kindness and ability to be stern without being mean. Thank you Patty!
Here is what I know . . . teaching is much more than what we say. "We teach who we are." Students need adults like Russ, Bob and Patty who teach them that they are genuinely cared about and respected as individuals. They are not there to grade them, they are there to share their knowledge with them and to care for them. Teaching is relational. And I am forever grateful for their gifts to my students. They are given much more than a lesson on birds or Antarctica or some generalized sub plans when they are with Russ, Bob or Patty . . . they are learning that they are important and that they are worthy and that they are loved. This is what matters and what is transformative in the lives of others.
Thank you Russ, Bob and Patty!