Well hi there, teacher friend! If you’re reading in real time it’s back to reality very soon. Our summer slipped right through our fingers, friend, but that’s okay. If you’re having any sense of dread about going back to school, my hope is that this episode will give you a little motivation to put those feelings to the side and become fully prepared to go back and change the world of your little students. If you don’t need this letter from me to you now, remember that it is here and listen later. Maybe in a time when your school year is about to get the best of you.
Today’s post is special. It’s actually a project that I worked on with Hal Bowman, if you’re not familiar with him he’s a wonderful guy, but he asked me to write a letter to teachers to lift up and encourage them. I’m going to read it to you today, and I’m going to hope that I don’t cry like a baby. But just remember that this is for you. When writing it, I fully envisioned the kind of teacher that you are.
A Teacher Pick-Me-Up
I kept in mind that you can’t be strong 100% of the time. So sometimes you may need a little teacher pick me up. These words came straight from my heart, and I hope it somehow brings value to your life as you go about your day impacting your students and bringing them joy. You are so important. And in this letter, I cannot wait to tell you why.
I’m so excited to share this piece with you that I wrote for Hal Bowman’s Dear Teacher book project. I’m proud to say it was chosen to be included. I will let you know when it releases. It is a bunch of compiled letters, by teachers for teachers, to bring encouragement after this crazy year that we’ve had. So I think it is very timely, and I’m excited to share my letter with you. So without further ado, here is my letter to you, sweet teacher.
My Letter to You
As I write, I’m thinking fondly of your healing smile and your warm intentions. I know you don’t know me, but I know you so well. I’ve treasured you in the deepest part of my heart for many years. You, sweet Teacher, are my very own rescuer of the hopeless. A grounded angel. A keeper and generous supplier of the magical gift of human potential. Although I am now a Teacher as well, I’m speaking to you here in the voice of my childhood, as a student who desperately needed you and the goodness you freely share. Then again, I speak to you as a fellow Educator who understands your hardships. These two roles make me fully qualified to remind you of what you truly are: A Difference-Maker.
For nearly 10 years, I’ve worn the prestigious title of Educator. I’m living a dream I could have never imagined during my time as a student. Not only did I live in high poverty in the poorest part of the country, but I had suffered a great deal of trauma and carried a 504 Plan with extra accommodations for the legally blind. Although the odds seemed stacked against me, you would soon discover that intelligence and creativity were hidden beneath those thick glasses and second-hand clothes.
I Have the Future You Made Possible
Fast forward to the present and here I am today, insanely proud and honored to be addressing this letter to you. It seems that I have somehow transpired through it all to gain the superhuman abilities of the heroes I so admire. I am living the bright and joyful future that you swore could exist. Sometimes I still stop and wonder to myself, How did I come to this wonderful place? At that point, my heart earnestly reminisces back to YOU.
I’m sure at this point you are humbly sweeping away this immense compliment and insisting that you don’t usually make this type of profound influence. With all due respect Teacher, let me remind you that great impact comes from the small, subtle choices and relationships of the every day, of which you are a master. Here are some of the seemingly ordinary, yet miraculous things you do daily that have changed my life and the lives of every child you serve.
You smile (like all the time.) Although it’s a simple gesture, your relentless smile is an invaluable gift. My six-year-old self gawked at you continually, wondering how you could be so happy. Your glow was healing and could make me forget my hurt in an instant. It made me wonder if there was some sort of destiny beyond a home life shattered by alcoholism. Could I find a life that made me smile this way? Year after year, I found more and more of those smiles and it fed my goals for the future. Through your smiling face, students see hope and a wonderful model of joy. Never underestimate its small but mighty power.
You See the Good
You see the good. You look past the evident and find competence in children- and they revel in your discoveries. Despite my reality of being moved from home to home and sometimes shelter-to-shelter, you saw my love for writing and the pride I felt at being praised. I was more than a legally-blind child living off the streets; I had hidden talents that could help me escape my presumed fate. You helped me find many treasures within, of which I cling to, even to this day. Just by pointing out strengths, you give other students that same endowment. It fuels their little hearts and sparks visions of what is possible.
You Create Safety
You create safety. The atmosphere you provide all students is a sanctuary many couldn’t bear to do without. In many instances, your classroom was the only promise I could count on during dark moments of fear. In the midst of a psychotic rage of an abusive step-father, comfort was found in knowing that within a few short hours my teacher would be expecting me. No matter how ridden by hunger or fear, I could soon enjoy the feasts of the school lunchroom and return to the fortress of my classroom desk. You were always there, an unknowing ally when the rest of life was in turmoil and ruin. Thank you for creating a safe haven for me and for all of your students; it’s unlikely you’ll ever fully understand just how incredible it is.
You Show Up Every Day
You show up every day. I hope you realize this is most crucial of all the duties that you hold. It is this reliability and repetition that provides all of the other bounties I’ve mentioned. As a Teacher, I now realize how difficult and trying this part of your career can be. Returning day-after-day to a position that is sometimes thankless, unappreciated and overwhelming is a noble contribution to the greater good. On tired days, emotionally trying days and even on sick days, you show up for your kids and I’m thanking you deeply for that. By showing up for me, you gave me the power to overcome disability, neglect, abuse and the powerful hold of learned-helplessness that promised to be my fate. Remember that I am only one of the thousands you have (or will) impact over your career. You are a big deal, my friend.
I hope by reading this message of sincere gratitude, you recognize that these are all qualities you possess. Recognize them and stand firm in them. Your value to the World isn’t in meticulous lesson planning, headache-inducing data tracking or any of the burdensome tasks that we put so much pressure on ourselves to get right. Your value to children is simply YOU and all the subtle actions you, as an incredible human being, do naturally. The only thing you need to do now is simply … keep on doing them.
Many blessings to you, from one of your greatest admirers.
Primary Teacher & Content Creator
Keep Being You!
Those words have so much deep meaning to me. Truly, you are so important. I hope you realize that you are irreplaceable to your students. And you are making little subtle differences every single day. So hang in there teacher. I hope you are gearing up for the most incredible year ever.
If you’d like to join in on a professional development that I’m opening this fall, head over to Joyful Teacher Academy’s sign up and I’ll keep you posted. Or if you’d like a little extra motivation and help getting in the teaching mindset, head over to this post on Core Beliefs of Primary Teachers.
I love having you here, and I hope that this letter and my show of emotion has brought value to your day. With that, I will let you go have a wonderful day. Thank you for being here. And until we meet again, go make a difference, Teacher friend.