What Stays With Our Students? Always Wear Sunscreen

I became a teacher to make small differences in the lives of my students and send them off into the world to make BIG differences! And while living in a small town grants me frequent opportunities to reconnect with former students, nothing could have prepared me for the conversation I had on Friday night with one who graduated a few years ago.

Karli informed me of the various twists and turns her life had taken. Exploring multiple education strands aligned with her passions, she was excited to tell me that in the fall she would begin pursuing her nursing degree. This occupation was one she had avoided for a number of years, not wanting to follow in the footsteps of many of her family members, she refused even considering this option until recently. Working in the medical field for the past few months inspired her, and she was excited to say, “Farnsworth, I love it!”

I was so proud!

Before leaving, she shared how important I was in her life (that part of the conversation will remain private, but I will share one specific thing). Each year I would have my seniors listen to Baz Luhrmann’s song Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen for our “Monday’s Inspiration” in Writer’s Workshop. This song is one of my favorites and one that very few students had heard before I shared it. This “inspiration” evoked letters, poetry, vlogs, and even some original songs. As seniors, many of the lines in his song resonated with them and the adventure they were about to embark upon.

This short, one-day activity, had stuck with Karli from that day forward. She shared that she often listened to this song when things got tough and even shared Luhrmann’s lyrics with others experiencing difficult times.

I smiled the whole way home. The connections we make with our students carry forward with them long after they leave our rooms. And although Karli and I had many conversations during the school day, lessons in grammar, the writing process, publishing to a global audience; it was a simple song that I shared in class that she uses most frequently! My smile continued through the night and into the next morning. Teaching is unlike most other occupations. One does not stop being a teacher when the clock hits four, or when students graduate and become adults. And because they spend hundreds of hours with us, you can never tell what a kid may latch onto or what will slip through their ears unanchored.

Make every moment, conversation, and relationship count; you never know the influence you may have and how your words can suddenly offer inspiration or comfort in a student’s life when they need it most! Be that small difference!

One thought on “What Stays With Our Students? Always Wear Sunscreen

  • These types of connections after graduation don’t happen as often in a big town without some contact throughout the years. As a fourth grade teacher, I often wonder what happens to some of my students after they leave my building. Although it’s not very often, I enjoy getting graduation party invitations & a chance to reconnect. You must have made a great difference in this young girl’s life and knowing that she cared about what you thought about her future plans must have been a great compliment to you. Love it!

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