Monthly Archives: October 2016

Thank You

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I had a hard time writing this post. In fact, I kept putting it off all week and now, a week and a day later, I am forced to write something. I feel like I should have a big, inspiring story about a former student who contacted me years later to thank me for being his or her teacher. 

But, sadly, I don’t have a story like that though after 30 years of teaching, it seems like I should. At least, I don’t have one big story. I have small moments. 
It seems like those should count, too. They’re important. Aren’t they?
I can excuse myself by saying that of the 30 years I’ve been in education, I spent seven out of the classroom, and so I lost contact with a lot of kids and their families. But, that sounds lame. What is true (read: less lame) is that I have never stayed more than six years in one school site and I’ve moved from North to South America and back again twice. It’s easy to sever ties when that happens. 
Nevertheless, I do have one small moment from this past year to share. In January one of my students moved away and for a few months after that, we were in touch via email. My student would write about how much she missed our class, what she was doing and, in one memorable email, thanked me for being a strict teacher. 
Bye miss I will never forget you, from all the teachers I had you’ve been the funniest, hilarious, and the one who most teached (sic) me. I like you most…because your’e strict. Take it as a good thing because you are preparing us for the other grades. THANK YOU. You’ve also been very funny. Never forget me because I never will.
This was from a student who spent the entire time she was in my class trying to undermine or poke fun at everything we did. I could never call her out on it, but I knew she was doing things behind my back. The fact that everyone found her charming, and I found her sneaky, made my suspicions that much harder to handle. 
Social media has facilitated staying in touch with families of former students. Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and Twitter make it easy to track down just about anybody you want to find who wants to be found. 
I know that my students from my first few years of teaching are out there somewhere. They’re in their early 30’s. I sometimes wonder where they are, what they’re doing. How they turned out. Do they remember our year together? 
It took me over 20 years to connect with a teacher who was my mentor in high school. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him how much he meant to me at the time. Even after reuniting face-to-face a few years ago in NY, I never got up the courage to thank him for his support, encouragement and unconditional faith in my potential to become whatever I set my mind on becoming. I wonder how often that really happens. There are definitely stories out there, but how often do students contact their former teachers to thank them? I wish I’d told Mr. G how grateful I was that he was my teacher. But, I still haven’t done that. Does that mean I care any less? Does that make him less effective?
I’d like to think it doesn’t. But, taking the time to reach out makes us feel appreciated and loved. 
As I move into my 31st year in education, although I have no regrets there are many things I wish I had done differently. I hope my hundreds of former students out there know that I love them and wish them well. 
And, I hope it’s mutual. 
I learned so much more from my students than they could have ever learned from me. 

Thank you for being my teachers. 

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Filed under #CompelledTribe, #SOL, appreciation

Writing Does That For Me

Writing has always been a cathartic activity for me.

I write when I’m upset or confused and, after just a few minutes, I start to feel better.

Writing about failures or challenging situations helps me clarify my thinking so that I can sort through the muck and figure out what my next steps might be.

Writing allows me to uncover what was hidden and is no longer so.

Writing can free me up so I can discover a better version of myself.
To uncover something I didn’t know.
To sift through the parts in order to get to the whole.
The whole that matters.

Writing does that for me.

And, just as quickly, a perceived barrier to making my writing public can shut me down.

If I can’t write publicly about a controversial topic without feeling vulnerable, then I feel lost.

Untethered.

Groundless.

Without a backbone.

Trapped.

I want to write without worrying that I will offend someone. But the fact of the matter is that every piece of good, honest writing will always offend someone. If that someone is a co-worker, friend or family, then I have to censor myself. Either I have to dance around the topic or simply write for myself, rather than for a larger community. Of course, while there’s nothing wrong with that, this is the kind of writing that begs for an audience outside of myself.

Sigh.

So, the last few days have been difficult. 

I have been working with my students on declaring strengths, and setting goals and plans for reaching those goals in academic and social areas. 

And, it has been hard! 

We haven’t done any reading or writing outside of what was needed for setting goals. 

Tomorrow my students will confer with their parents about their goals. 
I look forward to seeing how my students frame their goals and how they respond to their parents’ questions. 

I look forward to stepping back and thinking about this process. About how to make it more authentic. How to guide my students to set goals that are truly theirs. Goals over which they feel ownership. In order to do this, I will be asking my students for their perspectives. 

After the feelings of frustration and helplessness wear away, I will reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly in order to hopefully create something better and more meaningful.

I can already feel the waves of frustration and anger slipping away. I feel the calm settling in. 
I am ready to witness my students’ brilliance shining through.

Writing does that for me.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday

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Filed under #SOL, writing