For my 27th birthday my dad gave me a present I wasn’t too excited about:
At this point in my life, books weren’t exactly on my wish list radar.
I was two years removed from finishing my masters, which I completed immediately after my undergraduate degree. Twenty-three continuous years of education had taken its toll, and reading books for “fun” was low on the priority list.
As I revealed this gift to other family members I tried my best to remain enthusiastic while secretly hoping for a gift receipt to fall from the pages.
A short time later while eating cake and ice cream I glanced over at the present. The book was The Total Money Makeover written by a guy I’d never heard of named Dave Ramsey. I recall feeling offended my dad had given me a resource promising a “proven plan for financial fitness.” I had a good job, was living on my own, never asked my parents for money … the last thing I needed was personal finance advice.
When the celebration ended I returned home and promptly tossed the book in the corner of my room. Several months passed before I reengaged with the book. When I finally opened the book, something inside the front cover caught my attention. To my surprise, I discovered a handwritten note from my dad explaining why he gave me the book.
Part of the passage reads as follows:
“As your father, I will always be concerned about every aspect of your life. I want you to be ‘healthy’ in every area - including your finances. …. Please receive this book in love and know that I’m always available for answering questions on Dave’s plan or advice on anything else.”
Not only did I feel guilty for my initial reaction toward the book, I also was also blown away that my dad took the time to explain why I should read the book. It ends up I loved the book and the principles have had a profound impact on my life.
But rather than focus on the specifics of the book, I like to discuss the powerful moment my dad created when he wrote the note inside the book cover. What might have happened if he had not taken a few minutes to write the note?
Would I have read the book?
Would I understand personal finance?
Would I embrace lifelong learning?
It’s fascinating to consider how my life was impacted by one small - yet powerful - moment.
Creating powerful, life-changing moments is one of the most important things we can do as educators.
Whereas I was fortunate to have parents who created life-altering turning points, many of our students are not as lucky. All staff members - not just teachers - must look for opportunities to create defining moments for students.
Sharing words of encouragement, engaging in conversations about goals, or commenting on a special talents are all chances for educators to positively alter a student’s trajectory in a few short minutes.
I will always remember how my 7th grade Language Arts teacher - Mrs. Bamsey - motivated me in the area of creative writing. She did this in a number of ways. She encouraged me to go above and beyond our normal writing assignments. She took the time to give me detailed, positive feedback on the parts of my stories she enjoyed. She also created time in the class schedule to allow me to read my work to the entire class.
Most importantly, Mrs. Bamsey made sure to tell me that I was a talented writer. To this day, I have never forgotten her words.
The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath explores why certain brief experiences can change us, and how we can create extraordinary moments for others. While the book is written for all audiences, there are several examples where education is highlighted. Consider the following:
“When a teacher offers praise and support, this can lead to transformation. Or when a teacher points out the strengths of the student. A few minutes can change a life. These moments just don’t happen … thoughtful teachers made them happen.”
Educators have many superhero powers. I would argue the ability to completely change a student’s life in one brief moment is an educator's most powerful superhero power.
As a high school principal, I started creating a special moment for students by giving “The Total Money Makeover” as a high school graduation gift. Like my dad, I included a handwritten note explaining why I thought the book was worthwhile.
While I’m certain some graduates experienced the same initial reaction I did upon discovering the book, I'm hopeful at least one student’s life was changed as a result of the moment I was hoping to create.