The Traces We Leave Behind Us
Another great article about social good-written by Katie Clancy
Like many directors and coordinators of this or that school or organization, I began my professional journey in the classroom, as a teacher. Over the last few years I have become increasingly more consumed by my administrative duties and had to leave the position of teaching to many wonderful volunteers. Don’t get me wrong; I often feel a great sense of satisfaction when a volunteer leads a successful workshop for one of our communities. I know that I am working hard to create a ripple effect of positive impact on the lives of many children and their families. But recently I have been plagued with the feeling that there was a piece of me that was missing or had been shut off.
I rediscovered this piece of myself on a trip home while I visited an old friend. She happened to be my former boss at an amazing elementary school in the city of St. Louis. We were chatting on the drive to the restaurant where we planned to meet up with other friends when she excitedly pulled out her iPhone and told me that when I parked she had to share a story with me, but not until then because she was sure that I would tear up. I parked. And she began to tell me about how she had visited the home of one of my former students (a student I taught 5 years ago). During the visit they took her out into the backyard to show her a giant maple tree that they had been growing in a pickle bucket. It towered over the boy who had planted it in my class for Mother’s day years ago in a painted, paper cup. In the photo, he stood in front of the tree to show how big it had grown to be. My friend shoved that photo in my face as she continued the story; the family was donating the tree to school on the day of the little boy’s graduation. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I had to show this to you and give it you so that anytime someone asks you, ‘Why you are a teacher?’ You can say, ‘because of this.’” I wasn’t sure what she was feeling about it. I only knew that I hardly remembered that class until this moment. I did remember that I had doubted that a four or five year old would take it seriously enough and actually share the tree with his mom. And it seemed even more improbable that they, together would take care of it well enough to allow it to grow into a tree. To see this doubt replaced by a beautiful story with obvious importance to the family and now to my former school was a powerful feeling.
I left that little boy, that amazing school, St. Louis and the USA actually…to live and teach children in central Mexico. Now I do what that friend does: I coordinate, I lead and I administer volunteers and educators in Guanajuato and across the globe for two great education-based organizations. At the end of day, I know that my job is important. But seeing that boy and the tree affected me deeply…it made me reflect on all of the faces of my kids over these years, situations, classes and conversations. I was and continue to be overwhelmed by the notion of the connection that you make with children and their families when you teach. I cannot get over the fact that you can touch someone’s life in a sincere way, give them something to think about, to make and to hold onto or in this case, to grow. And for me the most amazing part is that you might never ever know that you left that trace behind you.
Katie Clancy lives in Guanajuato, GTO Mexico where she founded Colectivo TAN 473, a volunteer-based arts & education enrichment program for underserved communities. Now she continues to co-direct this volunteer movement in her hometown and directs Do Good as You Go, an international network of volunteers and organizations focused on skill transfer based volunteering throughout the globe. She was born and raised in the Midwest and still misses good friends and good BBQ but sincerely loves her home in Mexico as well. There she has started a family of her own. She is the mom to an incredible little baby girl who will soon turn one. Together they stay very busy….
To learn more about volunteering and teaching workshops with Do Good as You Go or with Colectivo TAN 473 please visit the Do Good as you Go website and contact Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do Good as You Go