Today I had a sobering talk with my fifth grade students. Because sometimes there are teachable moments that have nothing to do with “the curriculum” or what the lesson plan was supposed to be. Sometimes these teachable moments involve a heart to heart about things they may not expect to hear from their teacher.
A student asked why all of his teachers were wearing the same shirt. These “Be Better” shirts are a common thing to see in my school district, but many of us were wearing ours today. The simple message is the only thing on the shirt, with no other graphic, “Be Better”.
These were the words that a former principal used to speak over the loudspeaker of my daughter’s middle school every morning after his daily announcements. And the words that he repeated often and built a school community around. Mr. Paire would always end his messages to the students with the simple statement “Be Better”.
I imagine these words of encouragement meant different things to different people. Be better than you were yesterday, be a better person in any way you can, be better than any negativity in your life. Or sometimes he would also say to them “You only get this day once- make it great!” He had a way of using these simple statements to inspire everyone to be a better person and with his words and actions he did exactly that- inspiring many students, faculty and families in the school district.
Tragically, he died in 2017 in a bicycle accident. Today is his birthday, which I explained to my students was the reason we were wearing the shirts that now support a “District Student Support Fund” in his honor.
I discussed all of this with my students and answered any questions they had about Mr. Paire. I also talked to them about how it also made me think of the tragic helicopter crash that recently claimed the lives of 9 people, including someone who may have inspired them- Kobe Bryant. They pointed out what they knew about the other victims on that helicopter- some were kids, some were coaches. Well, I said, do you think they are also people who inspired others in their lives? Do you think, like John Paire that even though, they weren’t “famous” they were still someone’s inspiration? They agreed.
Unfortunately, it takes awful things like a tragic accident to take a step back and reevaluate our own lives. Whether it claims the life of someone close in our family, a friend or even a celebrity. In hindsight, I could have also paid tribute to the Challenger Space Shuttle victims in my talk, since today is also the anniversary of that tragedy. Talk about inspiring heroes that were taken too soon.
Regardless of what I forgot to say, I am glad that I took the opportunity to say what I did to possibly make them “think” in a different way today. Because the opportunity was there and I figured I only had this day once.- E