Ten years ago this past Thursday the photo on the left was taken at John Theuer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey when I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoblastic T Cell Lymphoma. Ten years later and the shirt on the right may have faded a bit, may have a few cracks in the graphic and might be a little tighter on me, but it is a symbol of all those who fought the fight with me. It sits on the top of my shirt drawer as a daily reminder of the doctors who helped save me. It is a reminder of my why....my wife, children and family. It is a reminder that you are stronger than you think when you are faced with a challenge.
We all have challenges that we face in life that can really "punch you in the gut." These challenges can cause us to doubt, cause us to question, cause us to worry, cause us to feel like giving in. It is during these times that you need to realize that there are people around you to lift you up. Family, friends, colleagues and maybe even total strangers. I remember the Superman sign being posted on every classroom door at PTHS as I battled cancer. I remember it hanging in the school offices. I remember my son wearing his Superman cape when I came home from the hospital that first week. I could feel the support and encouragement giving me strength to do what I needed to do. I was much stronger than I thought I was because of all of the love and support from everyone.
There are many of our students (and even our colleagues) that are going through challenges....some bigger than others. Some are open to sharing what is happening (like I did) while others choose to deal with their challenge differently. How do your students (and your colleagues) know that they have someone behind them no matter what? You don't need to have a Superman sign on the door in your classroom. But you can be a smiling face, a hello in the hallway, a conversation after class to a student. You can be a pat on the back in the faculty room or note in a person's mailbox that says, "Hey, I saw great things happening in your room when I walked by" to a staff member.
Our most challenging students are most often the ones that need people in their corner. They need that someone (or group of "someones") to come out of nowhere to save their day or even the class period. But it can be ANYONE that is going through something. Keep building relationships with your students. Every one of them could use a Superman or Superwoman. Don't miss out on those moments to help your students believe they are stronger than they think. In ten years, they may look back on that moment, smile, and give thanks. I know I did.
Richard M. Hayzler
A life long educator and current Principal of Pequannock Township High School in NJ, Rich is excited to share his ideas and thoughts about education and how we can change the world for our students and our staff.