by Rachel Conley, VMS 11th Grade
VMS junior, Rachel Conley, shared this reflection at Upper School Town Meeting on October 22, 2018. Throughout the year, Upper School students share their ideas and experiences at Town Meetings as a means of cultivating leadership and building community.
On Sunday afternoon after the long weekend, I opened my computer to look at my assignments due for the week ahead. After organizing myself and starting my homework, I paused for a second to think. As some of you might know, I don't do this often. I rarely just “think” about what I’m doing in the moment because I feel like I’m constantly overwhelmed by the amount of work my teachers assign each night… I am sure all of you can relate.
I stumbled upon a video while searching Google, typing in “How to get through junior year.” The title, "Every Kid Needs a Champion", made me hesitant. It seemed like something coming from an adults perspective rather than a student’s. Soon after beginning the video, I realized how important it is to think and talk about subjects that aren't necessarily discussed in the school environment. After watching the video, I was truly able to reflect on the significance of human connections, especially ones with teachers.
In life, we are constantly rushing or being rushed: while driving, while having a conversation, eating, and sleeping. I fear that society is losing sight of what is important—living in the present and being grateful for the things that we have. We aren’t always able to appreciate the relationships we build with our teachers here at VMS because of this “rush.” We forget to see them as more than teachers, forgetting that they are complex people with layers of depth. I have experienced this first hand since both my Mom and Dad are educators. I remember, when I was in 3rd grade, sitting in my mom's classroom in Massachusetts, watching five of her students who had just graduated high school walk into the room, and give my mom and I big hugs. They told me that they remembered how much they loved it when my mom brought me to school when I was a baby. They told my mom that she changed their lives, that they wouldn’t be where they are today without her influence. Each summer, my family and I go back to Massachusetts to visit old friends and each time, we run into my mother’s former students. The conversations that they are able to have after 10 years are incredible and really show the strength of a relationship that is built between a student and a teacher.
Teachers play one of the most influential roles in each of our lives and by connecting with them, we are able to learn so much more than how to pass a vocab quiz, a project, or a final exam in their class. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to come to VMS and be educated by people that inspire me each and every day to become my best self. Mr. Sappenfield has been able to inspire and encourage me to pursue something that I am very interested in, which is medicine. He has always checked in with me when I was struggling with my health and has provided me with plentiful of opportunities to involve myself in things that I am passionate about and have a connection to. I am so thankful to have had a teacher that I am able to connect to because I know that the things I will learn and take away from him today will affect me greatly in my future. I have been to many schools around the valley and in Massachusetts, and I have never connected so strongly with teachers anywhere else. Here at VMS, we are so lucky to be in a place where teachers care for our well being and truly want us to succeed. However, I am afraid that many people in our school do not recognize and or appreciate this as much as they should, including myself.
Although this TED talk is geared more toward teachers, I hope that you will walk away with the message that building relationships with our teachers can and will be life changing. I encourage you to reach out to current and or former teachers and just say, “thank you” or “I really enjoyed your class today” or “thank you for challenging and pushing me to think differently” because these are the things that matter.
>>VIDEO: Every Kid Needs a Champion