On Sunday, June 13th my husband and I attended a retirement celebration at Norwalk High School for Jeff Smith, who is retiring after 34 years as a music educator. My husband played saxaphone with the Norwalk Marching Bears throughout high school. He spent countless hours practicing for local football games and for special events, such as the Citrus and Fiesta Bowl Parades. He insists that being part of the marching band, under Mr. Smith, helped to shape him into the person he is today.
Almost 1,000 people packed the Norwalk High School Auditorium on Sunday to pay tribute to Mr. Smith. After sitting through a two and a half hour program and attending a reception in the late afternoon, it was clear to me that Mr. Smith taught his students a myriad of life lessons that were loaded into the life backpacks of the kids in his classes.
Old photographs, color guard flags, and blown-up Mr. Smithisms lined the walls of the gymnasium during the reception. My husband was catching up with some former classmates when one particular sign, which I’ll paraphrase (below) caught my eye:
“To be early is to be on-time. To be on-time is to be late. To be late is unacceptable.” –Jeff Smith
Clearly, tardiness was not accepted by Mr. Smith. I thought about the hundreds of rehearsals my husband attended in four years of high school. Obviously, he was expected to be early or on-time to them. And that’s how my husband is in life today. He’s nearly always ready before me. Unless there are circumstances beyond his control, he doesn’t run late. I’m sure this is one of the many lessons he internalized from Mr. Smith.
Many teachers in the Northeast are in the final two or three weeks of the school year right now. Others of you have just said good-bye to another class of students. What lasting lessons did you send your students with as they headed out the door of your classroom into life? How have the non-academic, life lessons you’ve taught your students impacted on the lifelong habits of your students?
I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).