A Teaching Experience That Changed My Life

One hopes, as a teacher, to affect a child’s life in a positive way.  What most teachers really want is to make a lasting impression and find out later that something they did or said guided a student’s life trajectory.

What I hadn’t expected was to have my life so changed by my students.

Within the last few years, thanks to grants that our district received, I had the opportunity to be a chaperone on two overnight college trips within New York State. The students were first generation immigrants and some English as a Second Language students.  None of these kids had been to a college campus before.  Some had never been out of the county.

The day before the first trip, I thought to myself am I an idiot?  To be on an overnight trip with all of these teenagers?  But I put on my big-girl pants and hoped that the worst that could happen was that I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep.

But the best that could happen blew my mind.

ramada-albany-welcomes-ossining-high-schoolWhen I saw this sign I thought “Phew we made it.”  The students, however, were astounded that the sign, the hotel, the city of Albany and SUNY Albany were welcoming them. They whooped. They cheered. They took a kazillion pictures, in the rain, in front of the sign.  Individually.  In groups.  Friends.  Selfies.  Posing.  Antics.  I was amazed. Not one student on the trip had ever stayed in a hotel before.

As we checked in, the kids were taking a slew of pictures in the lobby.  They were taking pictures of the sign on the front desk that showed the room rates.

All of our rooms were in the same corridor, so we got the students settled in.  Then we looked around the hotel.  As the students walked past a small ballroom, their eyes bugged. “Look, Miss…..can you imagine?  Wow, if we could eat there…” And that was where we were scheduled for dinner.  More pictures.

Seeing their delight was wonderful.

When the first student finished eating dinner, he walked up to me at the chaperones’ table with his dinner plate in hand and said “Where do I put this?”  I replied that he should take it back to his seat and the waiter would come and take it.  He just stared. And then said “You’re kidding me.”

For the first time, he was in a new city, a few hours from home, in a hotel, in a ballroom, that was in a restaurant where there were waiters.

We all went back to the rooms and most of the kids opened their doors and were running from room to room (actually quietly).  One room was playing music and they were dancing.  Other rooms had pizza.  In another they were watching a movie.  Again, I was astounded.  And got ready for a night where I wouldn’t get much sleep as we started chaperone shifts.  More pictures.  Lots of phone calls home.

And I got texts from the kids.

  1. Can I go to the lobby and get something from the vending machines? (of course)
  2. Can we walk around the hotel to check it out again? (yes)
  3. Can we go outside? (absolutely not)
  4. How late can we stay up? (ummmm……)

And the next morning, as we were doing a final check to be sure nothing was left in the rooms, I saw that in about 4 rooms the students had made their beds.

Then on to the next college.  The hotel had a bowling alley.  THE HOTEL IN COBLESKILL, NY HAD A BOWLING ALLEY.  bowling-ball-in-cobleskillNo one had ever bowled.  It was so much fun.  Again, they took tons of pictures and posted them and called home.





They were not, however, ready for Mrs. Knowles.  I had bowled before.  A lot.  STRIKE.  My street cred went way up. #adultscandothings #enteringmyprime


The actual college visits were awesome.  They were exposed to student life, laboratories, classrooms, libraries, dorm tours, sessions with admission counselors, dining halls (all you could eat….teenage boys were in alt), professors, sports, you name it.  They visited state schools and private schools from New York City to rural Cobleskill, NY.  Between the 2 trips, they visited 6 colleges, spent 3 nights at hotels and had experiences of a lifetime.

The week after the first trip, four students applied to SUNY Delhi.  Other applications followed.  Not all of the students ended up going to universities.  But they all learned the process and will be able to help their own children make these decisions.

Don’t tell but I had some silly moments on the trip, as well.  


These students changed my life forever.


About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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46 Responses to A Teaching Experience That Changed My Life

  1. Ritu says:

    It’s amazing when your students can affect you as much as you them 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVED reading this. We need more teachers like you in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. annieg421 says:

    What some take as the norm is a luxury to others. I’m sure they will remember the trip with fond memories with a great teacher 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dawnkinster says:

    Smiling through teary eyes. Congratulations on expanding the world for lots of kids during your career.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ksbeth says:

    beautiful, barb. isn’t it amazing how they end up teaching us more than we do them?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laureen Avery says:

    Hey Barb this is a really nice post — can I use it for the ExcEL blog next month?

    And if you could persuade one or two of the kids who went along on the trip to write a paragraph or two from their perspective it’d be even more powerful! Spanish or English would be fine, and pictures always add another dimension.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Of course! I gave you some parameters in the email I sent. I have already spoken with one student who coincidentally visited today. He said “I want to write about the hotel, bowling and colleges.” lol


  7. It was so much fun reading you! Loved the final picture! lol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Paul says:

    This was amazing. I think my favourite part was when you stepped up and bowled a strike!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. An excellent post! As noted above, every one of those kids, no matter what they do in life will always remember that trip. You have given something to them that will stay with them forever!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. JaDonnia B. says:

    Very nice illustration that we learn from students just as much as they from us, and so it shall always be! Nice share!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. christophermcgeownwriting says:

    I love this entry, just read it again for a second time–that would be wild not having anyone take your plate then having a waiter come and do everything for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I think it’s because for that student and many others, fast food is the norm. Or pizza places, lol. And it was such a lesson to me that this trip was just as important to pick up life skills and experiences as college prep experiences. And I picked up as many as did my students.
      Wow, reading my post twice! That’s a wonderful compliment, thank you, Chris.

      Liked by 1 person

      • christophermcgeownwriting says:

        so true, it’s also amazing how programs and people like you who create, work, and support these can give students an experience like that which can change their lives! So awesome

        Liked by 1 person

  12. That’s a beautiful story. I taught early childhood for several years. It’s likely the kids don’t remember me. At Christmas when I decorate my tree with the ornaments they made me, I pray they developed a good attitude toward learning. I also hope they had the opportunity to learn from caring teachers such as you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bea dM says:

    It’s every teacher’s dream to manage to expand our students’ minds and lives. And it’s a such an enriching privilege to be given the chance to see the world through the eyes of people – in this case young people – with such different life experiences. Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. lorriedeck says:

    What an amazing experience for those students.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ann Coleman says:

    I can’t imagine how inspiring it must have been to see those students’ first exposure to thing like colleges, hotels, etc.! It is true that no matter how much influence you have on students as a teacher, they have just as much influence on you. And both are in such a good way!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. These kids are amazing! And so wonderful they get to experience all that. Such a nice feeling to see the sparkles in their eyes! And congrats on your street creds, Barb! Woo hoodoo!! Just please drop the loitering. :p

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Such an uplifting story! In so many ways. p.s. You had me at.. “What I hadn’t expected was to have my life so changed by my students.” Amen to that! Students are my reason too. 📚💚

    Liked by 1 person

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