A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to return to an area of the state where I lived for 10 years as a teacher, counselor, and coach.  My time in Ashwaubenon was special.  I met some incredible people and got to work with kids in both elementary school and high school, which was such a fantastic balance.  I was in town teaching a class through Viterbo University and as I prepared I was sending out some tweets about getting excited to be back in that area and looking forward to meeting our group.  A few of my former students/players saw the tweets and reached out to see if there was a way we could connect while I was in town.  What an incredible feeling…to reconnect with kids who you knew years ago…at different places in their lives…and talk about the experience when you were together.  One of the guys was a 3rd grade student when I left and the other was a member of the high school golf team that I coached.  I had so much fun talking to both of them…the golfer and I went out to lunch and I caught the former 3rd grade student working with kids at a park as part of his summer job.

As we got through the pleasantries of “You look great” and “Glad things are going well” we started to talk about the old times.  Inevitably, conversations move to “Remember when…”
We talked for some time about all the things that happened when I was in school with them.  The time I wore a wig and huge sun glasses to introduce a lesson.  The time I made the team run 1 hole on the golf course for each time they used profanity (only had to happen a few times…ha!), a quick conversation, and a book I read to a 3rd grade class.  The crazy thing is…if I was asked to recall the best parts about teaching and coaching with these guys, I would not have picked any of those instances. 
They were just things I did…not a lesson I was really excited about or crowning achievement on a team.  The most notable things to us are often not what our kids remember.
Perception is such an incredible thing.  We go through our lives interacting with multiple people on a regular basis.  We spend our time getting ready for meetings, lessons, presentations, events and other big ticket items.  I have a tendency to look ahead at what is next and not live in the moment.  The conversations with these two incredible young men reminded me that those moments are what others remember.

As I often do, I sent out a tweet with a picture from my meeting with the former 3rd grade student.  The next day as I was preparing for class I saw a tweet by another student from my days in Ashwaubenon.  The tweet was simple…all it said was…are you still bringing “sandwiches” to the picnic.  It took me forever to understand what that meant.  When I realized what he was talking about, I just sat back and smiled. 
The tweet referenced a 5 minute ice breaker that we did before class…one time.  One. Time.  That is what he remembered.  It was an activity that I haven’t thought of or used in over 10 years, but he did.  Every interaction counts.  Every single day with every single kid.  The moments that you hold dear are special to you, but you have no idea what will resonate with them.  As leaders in classrooms, schools, and districts we have to remember that eyes are on us all the time.  That may be unfair, but it’s real.  Any anxiety I felt with that concept was relieved through the interactions I had with these kids, who are now well on their way to being incredible men.  As you reflect on the year and think about all of the lessons, meetings, and presentations what went well…consider the fact that there were thousands of interactions that may have been more meaningful for your kids, parents, and colleagues.  Those moments may be the ones you revisit 10 years from now when your asked, “Remember when…”. Go Crickets.
AuthorJoe Sanfelippo