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Not just a Dot - a circle of INSPIRATION

Teaching is hard! We as teachers are given the difficult task of being mentors, sharing wisdom, imparting knowledge and inspiring students not only for our certain subject area but sometimes for just life in general. We often never see the immediate difference we make on a student's life. As we return to classrooms this time of year, we often have the question in the back of our minds “Am I making a difference with my teaching?”

This week is International “Dot Day”, (You know the book by Peter H Reynolds, called “The Dot Day”?) In this book, a teacher is faced with a struggle that most of us have had at one point or another in our teaching careers, a reluctant student either with a lack of participating or in need some guidance to get started. But once given that opportunity, they begin to create successfully with your instruction they are off and go on to create their own work. Sometimes they even take it to the point where they begin sharing with others and inspiring them. This story is about a student named Vashti, who is struggling with their creative confidence, trying to begin something on a blank sheet of paper during her art class. Her teacher uses some “teacher magic” to help Vashti work through the obstacle and ignite creativity not only to create but to improve each work of art and make them better than before (intrinsic motivation). Fueled by her newfound level of confidence she begins to inspire other classmates that are struggling with their own difficulties, in the same way, she was inspired by her teacher! Teachers light the path to success.

This past weekend, I was given yet another reminder of how teaching is one of those professions where we have a student for a short period of time and don’t always see how we have might have positively impacted student’s life in the long-term sense. If you have listened to our podcast, you may know this already, but I come from a long line of educators on both sides of my family. My father was a high school science teacher and wrestling coach for over 30 years. I had a person reach out to me via Facebook, asking if “I was related to a Frank Grundler?” This person was looking at an old newspaper article about the football team my father helped coach during his first year of teaching. He had told me about the impact my father had made on him as a high school student and an athlete. So much that he went into the field of education and had been a teacher for 30 plus years. I shared this information with my father, and my parents and I had an amazing discussion about those things that keep you motivated as a teacher. We don’t always get to see it every day, but we have to understand that what we do is so valuable for those students who go into the field of education or not.

My Father's first year teaching and coaching

It is crazy to think that I have just started my 16th year of teaching. Like I said earlier, both of my parents were educators for 30 years of their lives……. I swore I would never become one… (Never say never.) I started out my teaching career as an elementary art teacher for 14 years at the same school. I made so many great connections with families and got the opportunities to teach siblings and really got to know students. Along with the chance to see almost 3 groups of kids go from Kindergarten to 5th grade. But, there is one story I keep as a feather in my cap, it helps remind me that what I do is so impactful and that I make a difference. At our campus in the spring just before the high school graduations start, we would have a senior homecoming, this is when the seniors come back to their elementary school and have a reunion of sorts. A student that I had early on in my teaching career, had written me a long note about how my class was one of the few classes she felt like she truly fit in. She ended up moving away before making it to 5th grade, but painted me a picture on a canvas and signed it. When I saw her at the celebration, I told her that I still had the painting and even showed it to her. She almost started crying. She began to inform me that she planned to attend college in pursuit of a degree in Art Therapy, stemming from those positive experiences she had in my classroom.

Please always remember, that we as teachers have a difficult job, but we have to also remember that what we do is important and does make an impact. I hope you get to see your dots connect and the impact you’ve made someone’s life, and even if you don’t get to see it, know in your heart that you have made an impact for someone. Don’t forget, a dot is a circle of inspiration. Keep connecting the dots.

A recent journal's all about connections.

Wishing you love and creativity,

Matt Grundler


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