Alabama Gas Company recently upgraded the gas lines in parts of Anniston. The project required them to dig up and replace a few sidewalk squares. A few neighbors noticed and wrote their initials in the wet concrete. In the past, when I have seen initials written in people’s patios and porches, I have often wondered when they wrote them, and I sometimes think wonder how that person or persons might have felt at that moment.
Later in the week, as I attended a graduation ceremony at Trinity Christian Academy, I thought of how the simple act of making a mark in concrete is similar to the ways starry-eyed teen-agers are focused on making their mark.
I was especially proud of one of the three graduates who spoke at TCA, as she was my student this past year. I watched her mature in the previous nine months. On the night of the ceremony, I was proud of how good her speech was and how well she delivered it.
Even more important than her speech, and the ones the other two graduates delivered, was that all three seemed to understand the need to be people of excellence. Such a desire is the best way to leave a mark on life that is infinitely more important than scratching in concrete. Carrying out a desire to achieve excellence is hard.
Teen-agers struggle with many issues, such as working to improve grades, learning from the corrections teachers make, and engaging with the other teen-agers who have their own issues. In the process of these push-pull relationships, most students come to realize that their teachers are not their enemies and that achievement takes place when things are done neatly, well, and in a timely fashion. Most teachers learn that students are more accepting of correction when dealt with individually and lovingly.
Graduation is a time when we teachers and parents can admire our handiwork. Also, it is a time when we try to envision the marks these young people will likely make on the places where they will work and where they will attend college. Also, they will likely make a mark by creating a family in the future. We adults wish them happiness in all that they do.
Friends and I made an interesting discovery last week that helped us remember the marks that people from history have made. We were walking in East Anniston after the recent rains and enjoying the sounds made by the waters rushing through the open drainage ditches. These structures traverse the streets and keep us safe from flooding. We noticed a plaque attached to one of the safety walls built over one such ditch. “U.S.A. 1936-1937 WPA,” it read.
It just so happened that my students and I had recently studied the Works Progress Administration program (WPA) that was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, his way of providing people with jobs and stimulating the economy during The Great Depression.
As my fellow walkers and I stood and watched the water, we observed how sturdy and effective the drainage ditches were. The men who built them labored hard to provide for their families and to build something of lasting value for the people of the future, people like my friends and me.
I, like most other teachers, hope that our students will one day look back on their school days and appreciate the hard work and the positive marks we made on their lives.
Helping students build a character of lasting value is one of the best ways to provide structure in their communities and to prevent problems from flooding their world.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org