You can never know your effect.

Hi all,

I know I’ve been writing a lot lately. A lot has been happening though so I guess that is ok. I wanted to write this for one particular group of people -the mentors who may have had a hard season, longer hours than usual, and perhaps - just maybe - are wondering a bit why they are even involved. Many times this can be new mentors who are still living through the shock of a FIRST season but other times it seems that it can be older mentors who are just tired.

I have a story and a suggestion/story as well. Today one of my seniors came to visit me for the last time. I teach Social Studies, Robotics, and am also the Virtual School facilitator. She took the latter course and was taking her final exam. Before she left she gave me a ‘gift’. First was a picture of her and her fiancee who is heading into the military and was a member of my team for the first year. The second was a paper airplane. Initially I had no clue why. She explained it quickly however. “Mr. Eiland, this was a paper airplane that I caught while at the 2011 World Championship concert. I saved it all this time and wanted to give it to you.” Wow. I almost cried.

Second - the suggestion. If you have the time, I would recommend buying a nice journal and each year have your students write a message in it. I do this for all of my classes as well as robotics students. Sometimes I only get a signature or a short note. Every now and then though - I get something that reminds me that we are - as FIRST mentors - more important to people than we may ever know:
“Never have I met a person who is like a second dad to me. All the tears I’ve cried or tantrums I’ve thrown around you have been soothed, and I’ve never seen you lose your cool over it. I’ve conquered my fear of heights and worked on conquering the public speaking aversion. I don’t think I have learned more from any other person outside of my biological family. You have given me a Panthrobot family and I am forever grateful.”*

Stand strong mentors. You never know who you have become a brother, sister, father, or mother to. Now - what stories do you have?

Also - just to clarify part of the note about a fear of heights. . . We were invited to attend a Gala for robotics in February at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. It was beautiful. One important component of the area we were in were the WWII era airplanes hung above our heads. Above those planes were catwalks that you could go across. The highest was - I believe five to six stories. This student was petrified to go across but wanted to go anyway. We walked together and she made it. Very few things make me that proud.

I presented brush/bristlebots on National Teach in Day several years ago at an elementary school over by Tampa. I do not give the students instructions; I tell them that this is a lesson in creativity and that they can make their robot any way they want to make it. I get many groans and many people copying their neighbors, but I am always surprised by a few students. I always have at least one student in a group of 45-50 students that figures out that little kit of parts in about five minutes. This particular day was no exception. I had one student make three robots during his workshop time with me. At the end of the class, he put his arms around me and hugged me tight while he told me thank you and how much he enjoyed my workshop. :]

Every year, I present a workshop at an engineering magnet school to get young ladies interested in engineering. We reach about 180 young ladies each year from middle school to high school. I have one student who loves to hear me present each year. I had no idea until she walked up to me in 2011 after my presentation and told me that she wants to do exactly what I do, how much she enjoys hearing me speak, and that was the third time she had heard me present (different topics). I found out from my friend who happened to be the chaperone for her group that she was disappointed this past year because she was in my last group of the day and my mobile phone had been stolen from the desk where I was teaching the lesson. Thus, I was in the office with the Police when I was supposed to be presenting to her group.

These moments are indeed what makes it all worth it.

I know this has nothing to do withthe thread, sorry but I just noticed this quote in the Spotlight and…WOW…it hit me. Your mentors and teammates become like your family. I challenge anyone to join a team and go through a build season and not feel connected on some special level to everyone on the team. You share blood, sweat, joy and, yes, even tears and form an almost unbreakable bond.

I received a letter yesterday from a young lady who graduated last year. As part of an Intro to Engineering course she was asked to write a letter to someone who had inspired or encouraged her to study engineering. Although she was only a member of our team for 1 year, she explained how it impacted her to see a woman who showed it was possible to have a career as an engineer and be a mom who was involved with and available to her kids too. She expressed how just 1 year empowered her and inspired her to want to be a mentor when she graduates. It may seem like a small thing but this letter meant a great deal to me.

She particularly mentioned a lunch we had the day before champs last year, where a few of the girls (3 students, myself, and another mom - who also has a job in a male dominated field) sat in the restaurant as we ate (and long after :yikes:) talking about work and family and the possibilities in life. In fact it was such an interesting conversation (in a rather empty restaurant) that a younger woman from a nearby table stopped over to offer her own insight as well. This was not something we planned it just happened by circumstance, but it was a moment that affected her perception of her future. Thinking back on it now, it was a bonding moment for us all.

So, yes, you never know what opportunities will present themselves and how they will affect our students. So glad I was part of this memory.

Several years ago I had a team member, ‘Z’ whose mother called me in the middle of the summer and asked me to encourage her son to quit school and join the Job Corps (yes she was serious :mad: ). ‘Z’ was a junior going into his senior year, had been a team member for two years and he loved the team. I told her that as his teacher, coach, and an educator I could not do that. Her reply was, ‘Well his step-dad and I are moving to California. He’s 18 and we are not taking him with us so I don’t know what he’s going to do.’ mind you this was said with less than motherly concern.

Sure enough they left several weeks later and he stayed behind. He found a job and moved in with some friends. As difficult as that year was he somehow managed to pay his bills, make it to school everyday, AND be here every night for robotics. On graduation night this young man was the first of his family to graduate from high school in 5 generations and he did it and stayed because he wanted to finish out his senior year with his team-family.

The night he walked the stage and received his diploma was one of my proudest moments as a teacher and not terribly different from how I felt when I watched my own son graduate from high school. The ability to help students like ‘Z’ is one of the reasons I keep doing this crazy thing called robotics and stay in the teaching field. :slight_smile: