Some of the most amazing teachers don’t ever get to stand up in front of the class. They don’t get to use the staff lounge or open gifts of appreciation at the end of the year. They are teachers who masquerade as students who have special needs.
Dawn Bolstad is passionate about working with students who, she says, teach without saying a word.
“When they reach for your hand, it is because they see you for who you are. When they love you, it is without pretense. When they celebrate, it is without restraint. Working with these kids is, without question, the most amazing gift of acceptance one human being can give another.”
The first day of classes at Fargo North High School looked a little different than normal thanks to an act of kindness by Bolstad’s students, plus three more young people from Rene’e Schwandt’s classroom.
Just before the first day of school, Bolstad took a tiny idea and put it into action. She brought it up to the administration, who gave an enthusiastic green light. Then she mentioned it to the music teacher, who put together a rockin’ playlist. Thanks to a conversation with her teaching team, she found two middle school girls who were willing to put their artistic talents to work.
Finally, it was time to add the most important element. Her students.
One by one, as the Fargo North students walked up to the school for the first day of class, they were greeted by a very exuberant cheering section.
Signs lined the walkway with messages proclaiming “This is your moment,” “Be your best self,” “You are unique” and “We are North.”
Eleven students, who are usually working in the classroom on life skills, showed off the most important life skill of all: kindness. They waved pom-pons, wore fun hats and danced to inspiring songs like “Brave” and “Eye of the Tiger.”
Bolstad says the effect was breath-taking.
“The teens were walking up to the school looking sad and frustrated. But after seeing my students and hearing people yell ‘Happy first day of school!’ ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’ and ‘You look great!’ those furrowed brows turned to smiles. The kids even stood up straighter.”
Out of hundreds of students, there were only three who didn’t smile or want to walk through the fanfare. Bolstad says she knows who they are and is determined to find them and make sure they know they are loved and appreciated at their school.
“Imagine walking into the first day of school greeted by people who have no other agenda than to wish you well. That’s an experience that cannot be distilled into a number, a value. That’s an experience all of us deserve. It is so unbelievably cool that kids with more challenges than any of us can really imagine are encouraging their classmates.
Dawn Bolstad has been teaching for 29 years. That’s 29 first days of school, but she says thanks to kindness, this one was her all-time favorite.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.