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Work Hard, Do Your Best

Salisbury Post- November 29, 2020

Work hard. Do your best.

It was time for parent-teacher conferences at the end of the first nine weeks. As a young college graduate teaching sixth grade, I was in the beginning years of my career, and I was a little nervous.


The mom listened attentively and nodded, but said nothing. Her son’s report card was not perfect. Even though he was intelligent and had good behavior, he had failed to turn in some assignments and sometimes seemed disinterested and inattentive in class.

I finally stopped talking, and looked up from the report card I had been referencing. The beautiful young mother leaned forward, reached out to me, and placed her hands on top of mine. They shook slightly, and when I looked into her eyes, it felt like she froze in time. I chose to freeze in time with her. I waited because I sensed that she had something to say.


Finally, she spoke these words, “I just want him to always work hard and do his best.”

She leaned forward a bit more, squeezed my hands a little tighter, and fixed her eyes on mine, as she whispered, “I am dying. I only have a few more weeks.”

I have no idea what I said.

I have no idea how I said it.

I have no idea when she let go of my hands.

But I do remember our hug.

And I remember the gravity of her words:

I am dying. I only have a few more weeks.

Work hard. Do your best.

A few weeks later, I stood in a receiving line at a church, as the choir sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and repeated it over and over, as hundreds came to comfort the family.

I hugged her son. He hugged me. We held on tightly. I placed my hands on top of his.

They shook slightly, and when I looked into his eyes, it felt as if we froze in time. I squeezed his hands a little tighter, for I knew we both felt her presence.

I whispered, “She said she wants you to work hard and do your best.”

He smiled and said, “She told me. I will.”

I think I grew up a little that day. Teaching was no longer just about curriculum — but it was also about loving my students, getting to know them personally, and going through life’s trials with them.

Relationship mattered. That was the key that helped me to be able to teach them — and reach them.

It was not only about my students working hard — and doing their best.

I also had to work hard and do my best.

I love that I held on to those words forever.

Not only did I say them to my students often, but I also say them to myself:

Work hard. Do your best.

I think God is pleased when we say those words — and when we live those words.

Colossians 3:23 says that whatever we do, we should do it heartily unto the Lord.

I will never forget her son.

I will never forget her hands.

I will never forget her heart.

I will never forget her words.

Work hard.

Do your best.

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