Leland Michael, is a math teacher at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Recently, while out shopping at Walmart, Michael passed through the school supply aisle where he ran into some parents who were also shopping for school supplies for their children and they recognized him from school. Michael’s encounter with the parents majorly involved the parents’ complaints about the expense of school supplies and a lecture on how teachers should be responsible for purchasing their own supplies.
A short while later, while queuing to pay for his shopping, Michael ran into another parent with his child and gladly had a very different conversation with him, the man thanked him for being a teacher and went ahead to give him a $25 Wal-Mart gift card to help with the cost of supplies.
The two different encounters from his students’ families brought a vivid realization to the teacher and drove him into writing a lengthy Facebook post that’s already been shared over 477,000 times to explain the importance of sending the right message to your child as a parent.
In the viral post Michael wrote, “I was feeling pretty jaded this morning as two different sets of parents at Walmart stopped me in the school supplies aisle to complain about how much they had to get their kids this year. This is just ridiculous. I don’t know how these teachers think we are suppose to get all this stuff.”
As they complained, they seemed to be oblivious to the fact that my cart was filled with a class set of all the supplies they were buying–which should have been a pretty clear indication that I was one of those greedy teachers they were complaining about, he wrote on Facebook.
“While I was checking out, though, things took a very different turn. I noticed the man in front of me in the checkout lane was buying school supplies for his daughter. As he went to leave, he said to me, “You are a teacher, right? I just want to thank you for everything you do. I see your cart is full with supplies, and I just wanted to help out as much as I can.” Then he handed me a $25 Wal-Mart gift card, shook my hand, and walked away with his daughter smiling big at me.
While I was extremely moved by the man’s generosity, the part that stuck with me the most was the difference in his message to his daughter compared with the parents who had been complaining earlier.
The kids who heard their parents complaining heard this message: “School is not important enough to spend money on it, teachers are not to be trusted and have bad judgement, and learning does not require investment.”
The kid whose dad handed me the gift card heard: “School is important enough that we should give more than required to make sure it is successful, teachers should be respected and valued, and learning requires us giving it everything we have.”
If money is tight, and you struggle to buy your child school supplies, I understand. Don’t worry: more than likely your child will have a teacher and a school that makes sure they have the supplies they need to be successful this year. However, as a parent, do your best to send the right message to your child. The man who gave me the gift card not only made my day, but I also know that his daughter will enter the classroom this year with a very different perspective about her teacher and her education, and that is extremely powerful!“
While intense debates surround the costs and quantities of school supplies, we are grateful that Michael shared this eye-opening perspective.