Building Relationships

Kris - Lenexa, Kansas
Entered on November 11, 2008

This message far transcends any building or school district and it is about kids everywhere. This email was written by Bonner Springs High School Industrial Technology Instructor, Kris Munsch. A few years ago, Kris lost his son to a tragic car accident while he was still in high school. Kris shares his story of loss with an incredibly open heart and mind and he welcomes the discussion of his story in hopes that it can make a difference in this world. He sent this message after we finished Parent/Teacher Conferences. I have read it over and over and am moved every time I read it by the raw emotion and incredible resolve that Kris has demonstrated. I have told Kris that he should publish this but he is far too humble to do so. We are truly fortunate to have Kris here in our community and I feel blessed for the opportunity to know him.



Parent Teacher Conferences are over again, I am still at a loss at how fast time flies by being a teacher. I was disappointed by the numbers that I had but honestly it was better than last year, so I call it a win. I was disappointed that the parents I needed to talk to did not show and the parents that have kids that are doing well showed up. It all makes sense; I used to be one of those parents who did not show up, kind of strange. Now I am a teacher and see the light.

So you may be asking yourself, why am I sharing my thoughts with all of you, maybe I shouldn’t, but I am. This morning I woke up and have been needing to take care of a few tasks I have been putting off, one of them was making a copy of my sons death certificate and moving the money I had saved for his college education to a fund that will help support a scholarship we give at Hays High School in his name. Doing this is hard, you spend your life looking out for your child, moving this money is like a closing chapter to Blake. It is very hard to do.

As I looked for the certificate in a large box of his things, I came across a notebook he used in school. I opened the cover and inside just his simple signature, honestly, the sight of it just made my stomach churn. I just wanted to bury my head and cry, the loss is unexplainable. As I continued to explore his notebook, I looked at some of his assignments that he had written, turned in and received his grade. Page after page, you could see he tried but his grade was marked with failure. 5/20, 7/25, 3/10, “Need more information”, “Explain More”, “-6″, it went on and on. Blake was not the best student, as a matter of fact he really struggled. But as I read his words, he was trying, he was really doing what he could with what he had to work with.

As a parent, I failed him. I was the parent the teacher needed to see, but in my mind, I thought that if I had a bed for him to sleep in, computer, cell phone, X-Box, stereo system, etc, Blake needed to do the rest. Blake needed to do his part, but I failed to do mine as a parent. This morning I just lay on my living room floor, holding his notebook to my chest and cried for him and what I had failed to do. I know you can imagine the loss, it hurts so much more now that I realize this, we can become so blind.

So why am I sharing this with all of you? I don’t want sympathy or hugs, I just want you all to realize that if a student is frustrating you or a parent is failing to understand your struggles, take a minute to consider that I had to lose mine to realize this. You may not reach that parent because they have not “seen the light”. But I also want you to take a minute and realize that each and every student in your room is the opportunity to build a relationship, each and every paper you grade can be success or failure. Did they just not get it, did I not teach it well enough, did they just not care that day, do they care any days? Kids can drive you up a wall and back down the other side and many times, through the wall. Take a minute and build a relationship with them, maybe that is all it will take and it will spark something inside of them. It is not easy and it all takes time, but I want you to know that lying on my floor holding a notebook with my sons writing and my failure is not the answer either.

Each and every one of you can make a difference to a child, a parent, maybe if you build a relationship with a student it will help a parent “see the light”. I share this today because knowing this myself and not sharing it is not building a relationship, it is not making a difference. I am glad that “seeing the light” is the easy part, being the “light keeper” is the battle. Build a relationship with a student, maybe the most difficult student you have, take a chance and give them the opportunity to “see the light”. Then just maybe, they can go home and save a parent like me. Please share this with any teacher or parent you think will find benefit from my “seeing the light”, if enough people can share this “twinkle of light”, we have just created a “Relationship”.