Yesterday I sat down at my desk to eat the lunch I brought from home. Students had been gone for almost two hours, and I had been cleaning and packing up my room. Because most of us are moving classrooms, this year’s end of the year clean up is more intense and taking much longer. Therefore, I was taking a little break before I got back to it.
I pulled out a folded up piece of paper from my pocket and began reading its contents on this little break. And then instantly started crying.
Earlier, before students were released from school for the final time this year, I asked my advisory to write a letter to next year’s students giving them some advice. I also casually mentioned they could write a letter to me or any other teacher as well. Several wrote letters of advice to future students, and one also wrote a letter to me. I folded it up and put it in my pocket so it wouldn’t get lost in my cleaning and purging.
Until I read this, I had no idea how this student really felt. Sure we had a decent relationship and she’s a student who overall wants to do well in school. But she is also a student who told me to “Get gone.” She is a student who whenever reminded to complete an assignment she was missing would scoff and say, “I’ll do it later, Miss.” She was a student who would often roll her eyes at my silly jokes and motivational “Let’s goooo!” chants. She is student who complained more than actively participated in class. An absolutely bright and fully capable student, most definitely, but until I read her letter to me, I didn’t realize the impact I had on her.
Her words showed me that you never truly know how someone feels about you. It shows me that some of what I was teaching and saying and doing in class really does impact students even when they are rolling their eyes or scoffing. Her words showed me that maybe, despite feeling very unsuccessful as a teacher more days than not, I am actually doing OK. And maybe I need to just keep pushing forward, doing what I do, looking for ways to improve of course, but I also need to keep her words in the back of my mind.
Her words will be there as a reminder that even when I feel in the depths of my soul that I am just not a good enough teacher for my students and should look for a different career path, that maybe, for some, I am exactly what they need.