A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.
As the parent of a struggling eighth grader I know several of his teachers quite well. In helping to keep Jordan caught up academically we have exchanged many emails and phone calls and held more meetings than his teachers or I would have liked. Together we have worked countless hours behind the scenes to help Jordan, but his struggles continued. Ironically it was one of his teachers with whom until recently I had neither met nor corresponded that finally may have turned the tide. I am writing to tell you about Todd Monson, Oquirrh Hills Middle School.
In the back of my mind had been lurking the thought that the science fair was coming soon. Each portion of the project had an independent deadline, probably to discourage procrastination and provide opportunities for feedback and small corrections along the way. Well into the project, however Jordan had still not selected a topic and was falling behind quickly. Finally Mr. Monson suggested that Jordan experiment with cranes. Jordan seemed to be making progress again, though always at the last minute. Finally he asked me to purchase some material to build cranes. The purpose of his experiment was to load each model with weight until it broke. There would need to be forty five cranes built to satisfy the requirements of the project. I argued that it would be more reasonable to make one model and document how design changes affect its ability to lift. As always, Jordan insisted that I was wrong and out of touch. He was just following his teacher’s instructions. That is when I first spoke to Mr. Monson.
Early one morning I sent an email asking for help understanding the topic he suggested. When he had not replied by early evening I just figured he was just another overworked teacher who would soon learn how very persistent I am when it comes to Jordan’s education. However, before I could get home to send another email he called me. It was seven PM. Not only did he make time to reply, he called me personally and was completely up to speed on every aspect of Jordan’s progress. We spoke for nearly thirty minutes and not once did I feel as though he had anywhere to go or anything to do but help me. During the course of our conversation it was discovered that Jordan had falsified portions of the assignment. Knowing he did not need my permission, Mr. Monson asked if it would be alright if he replaced Jordan’s scores with zeros, at least until the work was actually completed. Of course I agreed, hoping that a little accountability would be a better motivator for Jordan than all the subsidies he had received in other classes. Mr. Monson gave me several resources that would help Jordan complete the project and promised to be available should I need anything else. During our conversation he explained that when people ask him what subject he teaches he replies, “Respect, responsibility, and then science,” and that this would be an excellent developmental opportunity for Jordan. I began to understand the measure of his dedication as a teacher when the call ended at seven thirty and I noticed that he had called me from school.
The project was ultimately completed on time, but with an enormous amount of parental assistance. I emailed Mr. Monson again to disclose the extent of our help on the project so that no one would question the origin of the work. Again Mr. Monson called. Again, it was early evening, probably about six thirty. He spent some time explaining how very pleased he was to have Jordan as a student and reported to me their conversations about persistence and integrity that followed our telephone call. After that, he nearly brought me to tears when he thanked me. He praised me for my efforts, citing specific examples about which only someone genuinely interested in Jordan would know. Until Mr. Monson, no one outside my family seemed to have any idea how much work had gone into trying to make Jordan successful. Perhaps it was because of his own extraordinary efforts that he recognized mine.
Recently, following a meeting to resolve another concern with Jordan I went looking for Mr. Monson’s classroom. I wanted desperately to shake his hand and thank him personally. He had made such a difference not only in Jordan’s education but had created hope that with the correct approach success could be achieved after all. On my way there I became discouraged as classroom after classroom were dark and locked. Would he even be there? Of course he was. Once again, he gave me his full attention and we spoke at length about Jordan’s progress. He explained to me once more his goal to teach “respect, responsibility, and then science.” Mr. Monson let me know how discouraged Jordan had been at times and described the techniques he used to motivate him. He related to me stories of how persistence had paid off in his own life and the lives of his children and students. His words of encouragement and understanding again left me charged and full of hope.
Yesterday at the Science Fair I saw Mr. Monson’s exchanges with his students. It was obvious that they each receive the same attention and genuine concern as has made such a difference with Jordan. Mr. Monson’s love for teaching shows in his every interaction and his impact on his students shows.
Many of Jordan’s teachers have helped me along the way, some begrudgingly and others more willingly but reminding me always that they are responsible for two hundred other students and that their time is limited. No doubt Mr. Monson has just as many students as his colleagues but in speaking with him one would never know it. When he speaks to me it is as though Jordan is his only student and I am the only parent and there is all the time we need. Mr. Monson teaches exactly what he said to me in our first conversation, “Respect, responsibility, and then science.” He stands for everything that is good and true and does not give up or complain when his help is needed. Through his dedicated leadership, example and unwavering encouragement Mr. Monson has reached Jordan in a way that no one else has.
It seems that everyone has a story about a teacher who has made a difference in a child’s life. Until Mr. Monson I did not.
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