Her name is Rita Thomas and at the time she was working for the Log Cabin Democrat, our daily newspaper here in Conway.
Rita is a bubbly person, great personality and very talented. When I was president of our local Lions Club, Rita was the bulletin editor and did a great job. Others have recognized her talents as well, and she moved on to become publisher of the daily paper in Yankton, South Dakota, and a few weeks ago she was named publisher of the York News Times in York, Nebraska.
Just recently I was talking with Rita about my new book, “Learning, Earning & Giving Back,” and how most of the profits are going to help Newspaper In Education programs across the country.
At this point she said, “You know, it’s beautiful how one life touches another and another. Deanna Hearn and I launched the Log Cabin’s NIE program when I worked as a classified supervisor so long ago. Little did I know that it would touch you as it has, and then touch so many others through your praises of the program, and even now as you prepare to contribute to NIE programs across the nation. Wow, what a blessing.”
Rita then concluded her thoughts by saying, “It is also a sobering thought to consider that the works of our hands can have such impacts, good or bad, depending on what we think or do.”
If there has ever been a thought that we can all think about and ponder, that’s it.
To validate the truth of what Rita was saying, I got a letter a few weeks ago from one of the four NIE teachers that I have sponsored over the past five years. This teacher’s name is Kathi Sweere, who teaches fourth grade at Ida Burns Elementary School. This past school year Kathi was named Elementary Math Teacher in Arkansas and I might add that the other teachers I have sponsored have won awards at this level. They are simply an outstanding group of teachers.
At this point, what I am going to say has relevance for every student and every parent in America so I hope you will really tune me in.
In her letter, Kathi said to me, “I also want to thank you again for coming to my classroom four years ago and talking to my class. I have thought about that talk often since then. You made me re-evaluate my teaching and I wanted to tell you how. You had my students that day go around and introduce themselves and tell what their goal was for their future. I noticed that one of my students didn’t really have a goal. He was a quiet student that really didn’t care too much about school.”
She added, “You told my whole class that if they didn’t have goals, they have nothing to work for or towards. I have thought about that talk very often. In reading my Bible, verses would stand out reflecting what you had said. For example, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ I realize that a single thought neither makes or breaks you, but a pattern of thoughts can. People are probably more careless of their thoughts than they are with anything else. As a teacher or parent, we need to help our children have bright thoughts for their futures.”
Before I share her next thought, I want you to know that it’s one of the most sobering I’ve heard or read in a long time.
She continues, “Many teachers can predict the futures of their students. If you ask any elementary teacher, they can probably tell you which students will graduate high school, which students will go on to college and even which ones will end up in jail. It’s sad, but so true! Those students that don’t have goals, or people to help encourage them to have goals, have no future. They wander aimlessly through life never really getting to accept all the wonderful things that life has to offer.”
Kathi added, “Parents can influence your child to become the person that they will become; whether for good or bad, it is up to you. The amount of time a parent spends with their child is so important. They get to understand their child and realize what their children need. Teachers can always tell the children whose parents are involved in their lives. They are the ones that will have a bright future. Every person responds better to encouragement than criticism. If a child receives encouragement often, they can take constructive criticism in stride and learn from it.”
And finally, “I now set goals with my students at the beginning of each nine weeks. The goals may stay the same or change based on what successes we’ve had. We write them down and ask each other about our goals. Thank you so much for that talk. It has made me more observant of my students and their needs. I also feel my students are more successful because their teacher learned from you.”
To this, I can only add, “To God be the glory.”
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)