Over the past decade or so I have been blessed to work with hundreds of youth from all over the world. From time to time, I get a really nice note that makes my day. I got one such note just last night from a former student who stumbled across this blog some time back and has been, as she phrased it, “semi-following” it since. She wrote:
I’ve recently started my first semester of grad school and needless to say, it’s a big move and a big life change. I just wanted you to know that your blog is very uplifting. Even more than that, your outlook is honest and relatable. Though we are in very different stages of our lives, your words are truly encouraging and applicable on a lot of levels. Anyway, I just thought I’d let you know. Hope all is well : )
After receiving such a wonderful and touching note from a student, who endured my first and only attempt at AP US History, I eagerly shared it with Coach as soon as he walked in the door (he taught and coached her as well). With reflection, it occurred to me I should write to my students and tell them what they mean to me.
(Ok, so it’s not really going to be an ode, but that had a ring to it and sounded more inspiring than “An Open Letter to my Former Students.” Deduct half a letter grade for an irrelevant title and read on.)
To teach is my calling. It gives me energy, a sparkle in my eye. I thrive on research and synthesis of information, on sharing and discussing that information with others, on defending my positions and changing them if shown a better way, and on taking up a new challenge. I rejoice when my passion spills over into a class and the cycle continues. That is what I wish for all my students. For the times and experiences we shared, I am grateful. I am more grateful however for all that you have taught me and given me.
Thank you for working hard, whether it was at the task at hand, or at convincing me you were working hard at the task at hand. You motivated me.
Thank you for tolerating my insane organizational needs; for willingly taking letters and numbers as your second name. You supported me.
Thank you for asking questions and engaging your classmates in discussion. You elevated classes from mere lecture to real learning.
Thank you for feeding my whimsical creative streaks with book covers and creative history credits. You shared your genius with me.
Thank you for the hours you spent reading and writing papers, that I then spend hours reading and writing on. You made me a better writer.
Thank you for the times you tested me and tried my patience. You prepared me for motherhood.
Thank you for the times you forgave my mistakes and showed me a better way. You taught me humility.
Thank you for dozing off and zoning out in class. You made me be more interesting.
Thank you for all the holiday yummies. You made my tummy and heart happy!
Thank you for adapting to a college syllabus in high school. You allowed me to elevate the class.
Thank you for enduring my unrestrained enthusiasm for teaching religion, even when it wasn’t a religion class. You fed my soul.
Thank you for participating in Jeopardy games and playing with elaborate power point presentations on a Smart Board. You helped me stay ahead of the technology curve.
Thank you for the respect you gave to all our guest speakers who believed in faiths so different from yours. You gave me faith in the future.
Thank you for the times we stood shoulder to shoulder (partly because I’m short) and lost games and won them. You made me a more compassionate and caring coach.
Thank you for the memories of drama club, plays, and amazing sets. You brought out the drama queen in me.
Thank you for embracing my quirky sense of humor. You empowered me to continue making people laugh.
Thank you for sharing your daily drama with me. You taught me to care about you as a person, not just a student.
Thank you for rising to the challenges I put before you, whether it was a sonnet series, a long footnoted paper, an online component, or an intense reading schedule. You encouraged me to try new and innovative strategies.
Thank you for coming to talk to me outside of class, visiting my home, playing with my children, and breaking bread with me. You allowed me to be human.
Thank you for spelunking, climbing high ropes courses, riding roller coasters, lying on the beach, exploring NASA, and playing Apples to Apples with me. You created memories that I will never forget.
Thank you for indulging my enthusiasm for your athletic endeavors, letting me hit in the batting cage, sing the national anthem at your games, duping me out of a lot of Jolly Ranchers because you are insanely gifted at shooting 3 pointers or whatever the bribe was, and tagging along as Team Mom with all of Coach’s teams. You helped me stay young.
Thank you for always challenging me to be better, to be more prepared, to be more creative, to be more.
You inspired me.
Thank you for sharing your dreams, accomplishments, joys, and sadness with me.
You continue to inspire me.
You shaped me into the teacher and person I am today.