Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Kid From the Other Side of the Tracks

One of my favorite movies (and stories) around the Holidays is The Polar Express.  I could relate to the young man and his struggles to believe.  It took me back to my youth and some of my internal struggles.  I've watched The Polar Express at least a dozen times and read the book probably double that.  Recently I began paying a little closer attention to a separate storyline.  I watched and tried to better understand, the kid from the other side of the tracks.  At first I simply thought he was scared. But after watching I could tell, he was broken.  The boy had lost a lot of hope.

That story hits close to home.  Some time ago the holiday season hit and I was very worried about several of our kids.  One young man really stuck out for me.  So with the help of our social workers, we got this young man set up with, "Shop with a Cop".  I still remember the look on his face when he left with the officer.  The smile made my day!

When he returned, he came down and told me what he got for his little brother, his mom and his Nana. You could see his joy.  He truly felt lifted up by the happiness he would be spreading to his loved ones.

Last week that same young man came back to see me.  I was excited to see how much he had grown. We talked about school, we talked about his bike and we talked about life.  He then said to me, "Mr. Gilpin, do you remember when you talked to us at an assembly about the power of giving to others?" I smiled and nodded.  I told him that giving makes the heart feel good.  What happened next absolutely floored me.

The young man pulled out a wad of money, and began to put it in my hands.  He then said, I've been raking leaves this fall and helping my neighbors.  I remember when I was at Warner and someone helped me at the holidays.  Now it's my turn to help someone else.

This gesture, this act of kindness, blew me away.  I smiled, hugged him and told him to come back soon.  I let him know that his kindness would never be forgotten.  He smiled and headed back for home.  I turned and just couldn't stop thinking about what he had just done.  When I counted up the wad of money it came to $32.  The amount had to be everything he had.  Every so often people remind you of how great the world can be.

Next week will be an exciting time in many of our student's lives.  The anticipation of the holiday season, the joy that so many people are surrounded with, but it also can be a very stressful and sad time for some kids.  We all know that often times school is a safe haven, it provides consistency, love and so much more.  Some of our kids may act out around the holidays, they can't explain it, but internally they don't want to be away from us for days on end.  I, for one, always like to leave the communication lines open.  Encourage students to blog over the holidays. I've also checked in with my kids by arranging a movie day or a meet-up at All Skate.  This is a nice way for families and students to come together, and it gives some students that piece of hope they so desperately need.

This week's big question:  How will you support the student that needs you most over the holidays?


Monday, December 15th:  AM Lockdown
Monday, December 15th:  4pm Lego Club
Monday, December 15th:  3:45pm String Team
Tuesday, December 16th:  Warner Outreach Night 4:30-7pm
Tuesday, December 16th:  Admin meeting 9am
Tuesday, December 16th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Wednesday, December 17th:  Grades K-2 assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, December 17th:  7pm Musical in CAC for grades K, 2, 4
Wednesday, December 17th:  3pm Board Game Club
Wednesday, December 17th:  3:45pm String Team
Thursday, December 18th: Board Meeting at a special time (5:30pm)
Thursday, December 18th:  Classroom parties in the PM
Thursday, December 18th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Friday, December 19th:  Staff Holiday Breakfast in the Library (7:45am)
Friday, December 19th:  Lil Boy Blue rehearsal in the Warner Cafeteria (9am)
Saturday, December 20th:  Winter Break Begins
Wednesday, December 24th:  Happy Bday to Shelley Singleton
Saturday, December 27th:  Happy Bday to Joan Fitzpatrick
Monday, December 29th:  Happy Bday to Susan Nash

Articles Worth Reading:

How much does fear drive us? @pernilleripp

7 ways to keep others from squeezing the life out of you @coolcatteacher

What is the hour of code? @HuffingtonPost

The Identity and Empathy Gap @HuffingtonPost

15 Photographs That Will Open Your Eyes to the Wonders of the World @HuffingtonPost

Learning Unleashed @Venspired

Reimagining Learning @Jeff_Zoul

When your run gets ugly @ShutUpRun

30 Things To Let Go Before the New Year @marcandangel

Principles of Guiding Choice @gailandjoan

Videos Worth Watching:

Catching Kayla...touching & inspiring! (12 min)

One Stitch Closer (2 min) GREAT STORY!

Spirit of Giving (5 min)


  1. Wow, Ben, what a post! The way you lead with empathy proves how special a person you are. My favorite line in here is, "giving makes the heart feel good" because your words obviously left that impression on your former student - so much that he returned to pay it forward. I couldn't agree more, that one of the most important roles educators play is to continually inspire hope, to advocate for those without a voice, and to remember the power of our words with children...because they matter, often more than we realize.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Ben. This has brought me some focus in what can sometimes be a frenetic week to come.

    Merry Christmas, to you and yours,


    1. Appreciate your kind words Dennis. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Always grateful for your support and friendship.

  2. Inspiring post Ben!! Great story of someone paying it forward. Just shows how much of a positive influence we can have as educators on children and how they can be empowered to help others. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Jon,

      It was great seeing you last week, so glad you had the opportunity to share at MEMSPA. Also, thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Paying it forward makes the World a better place.

  3. Ben this is my new favorite post of yours. Polar Express is one of my favorite movies and that little boy gets me every time. The scene where they sing that song at the back of the train always gets me to shed a tear. So beautiful. Your connection to your former student was wonderful. I am not surprised that he came back to you to spread Joy. I only know you through Voxer and Twitter, but consider you a close friend and a trusted mentor. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

    1. Very kind of you Jon Harper! The young man happened to approach me after our breakfast with Santa. Proud of the mentality to pay it forward. Thanks for always being willing to share and listen. Very grateful!

  4. Love this post, Ben! This is such a great reminder that some of us are blessed more than others, and that school may be the safest, most loving place for some. I'm not surprised that you had lasting influence on the young man who came back to see you. From what I know of you, you are influencing more than you know! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story,

    1. Appreciate you taking the time to read and respond Jennifer. Often times the kids that need us most have a very tough time understanding the rollercoaster of emotions at the holidays. Thanks for your kind words.

  5. Good afternoon,
    I had to smile as an English teacher because you picked up on a secondary plot line with the Polar Express. :) Anyway, thank you for sharing. I understand the role school plays for students. School was my safe haven. We have so many small moments we can build on to teach life lessons for students. Your story reminded me of a line from a poem... you might know it " And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." Have a great holiday.

    1. Jamey,

      You've got my wheels spinning...can't think of the poem name. Thanks for reading and responding, I hope this story will encourage other adults to take the time and champion our kids that need us most.

  6. Hey Ben. I enjoy following you on Twitter and reading your messages. You are living the PLN concept. Even though we are miles apart, I feel like you are a post, a tweet, an e-message away. I am an AP in Mississippi that "walks the walk" of a PLN. I am new to blogging. I love your page layout. I hope to spruce mine up over the Holidays. Thanks for sharing you on social media and your school culture !!