The pizza slice that changed everything

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Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference.

It’s been a year of big changes for me. Many of those changes have been deeply and personally challenging, and I’ve lost count of the number of days when I’ve laid my head down on my pillow at night  in an exhausted state and wondered what on earth I was thinking when I took up this new role!

At that point in time, I call a variety of things to mind to rationalise for myself and make me feel a little better after a long and trying day. This week, one of the things I called to mind was a slice of pizza.

pizza2

Context will help. One of the most novel experiences for me this year is being genuinely disliked. I have a feeling this is going to come across the wrong way, but most of the people I’ve interacted with in the past like me (or are very good at fooling me into thinking that they like me). For better or worse, I’m used to being fairly well regarded by those around me – and I’ve tried my best to give people good reasons to do that.

So this year it was a bit like jumping into a pool of ice water to have people – lots of them – really, honestly, openly, not like me. At first, like ice water, it was a raw shock to the system – was it going to get any better? But as time passed, I realised that there was no quick fix. I’d just have to get comfortable in the cold. Even though I didn’t like it, I understood very well why I was being treated this way – I was alien and unfamiliar to the school, not to mention inexperienced and making mistakes that had a flow-on effect to lots of other people. Well, fair enough then. Don’t expect to be liked – it’s not part of the role description.

But enter a group of year 12 boys who had their lunchtime hang-out spot in front of my classroom. One or two of them were in my class, but most of them I just got to interact with when I bumped into them in between classes. And frankly, whether intentionally or not, these boys just welcomed me. No matter what was happening, they would always greet me with a smile and chat with me as if they’d known me for years.

Friday was their last day of school before the HSC trial exams begin, and I had just wished my own year 12 class good luck for their assessments. The lunch bell rang and as everyone filed out of the room, I set about packing up all my things (whiteboard markers, worksheets, tripod, microphone)… only to be surprised by one of the aforementioned year 12 boys entering the room. “Sir, do you want some pizza?”

Some of them had gone and ordered pizza as a kind of pre-emptive celebration, I guess. The reasons for the food aren’t all that important to me, really. I was just touched that they invited me – a teacher, and a teacher who has just turned up at their school this year – to share some food with them. It was completely unrequested kindness – the very best kind.

Have you ever received a “slice of pizza” (or other unexpected gift) from a student?

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