Letters from my kids: True Admissions

I love letters, especially letters that are from the heart. It’s doubly good if they are handwritten.

 

I’m not gonna lie this year’s group of kids loved writing letters. They wrote letters to me all year long. But, end of the year letters, oh they’re my favorite, there is so much to reflect on . . . and it gives me one last chance to hear each of their sweet voices before another teacher steals them away.

 

And so I’d like to share these with you, because I think it’s okay with them. Here’s a few lines from the letters that let me know I might be doing this teaching thing right. . . (Disclaimer: I could have typed many many more of these, but each paragraph is from a different kid and well, I think you’ll get the point.)

 

 

Dear Miss Smith aka Rachel, Smidty, RSmidty, the teacher that watches Harry Potter with students ect . . .

This letter is written on the last blank salvageable page in my journal! So this letter is nothing short of important to me, as I’m sure it is to you. This letter will probably not feature many writing strategies and/or sentence patterns, but this letter is from the heart.

I’m not gonna lie, coming into this year I thought I was going to HATE your class. I didn’t like writing, reading, or Language Arts in general. I came into your class with a chip on my shoulder, because I honestly thought all I was gonna do was be miserable. But then you opened my eyes to a different type of writing, not writing to boring prompts, but what we wanted to write about. I can’t thank you enough for that . . .

I enjoyed how you don’t believe in writing prompts and that helped me with my style. It gave me a chance to really find what and how I like writing. I will admit I didn’t like writing everyday, but when I started realizing I actually could write good things, I became proud of all my writing! It shows me how I grew as a student. Thanks for teaching me to be me.

The atmosphere of the room was great. Having the time to work with our partners really helped me engage in my writing. I also liked how you let us use our iPods in class to concentrate on our work. Last but not least, I loved the lights off and having your lamps on.

And I still remember when you gave me The Maze Runner and I was obsessed with reading. To be honest, before I read that book, I used to open a book and pretend to read, but you got me into it; you’re the best.

One of the most helpful things was to listen to your words. Any teacher could tell you to write, but you showed us how (with amazing examples from you). I also love how you put feeling into your writing or when you read a story.

Before I walked into your classroom, reading and writing was pretty much the death of me. By the middle of September, I found myself staying up late, just to finish my book. You taught me so many things I’ll never forget. I learned that the semicolon is used for more than just the winky face, if you want something chase after it cause you never know what will happen, and that FANBOYS are awesome.

But one of the most important things that has come out of this year is becoming a writer. A real writer.

 

Those are my kids. Oh how we learned. And oh how much it makes me smile that they admit it . . .

Guest Blog: See Ya Later, Not Goodbye

The following is a letter my students received from Evan in their last days of school. Evan came alongside us for the journey this year, to learn and write with my kids. However, as you might have learned to expect from my classroom, it became so much more. I cannot thank Evan enough for his heart for my kids, for slowing down his crazy schedule to let fourteen-year-olds know they are worth being invested in, and for reminding me when days got rough, that I have the best job on earth. Thank you Evan.

I’ll just add that if you’re a teacher, you need to read this. Evan has no training in education aside from what little I’ve been able to cram into his brain, but look at his passion, and look at his recognition of your hardwork. Evan may not be a teacher, but we can all learn something from him.


 

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

And so we’ve reached the end of another milestone, not just for the year, but for the hallways and the classrooms that these students have come to recognize for fun as much as for learning. A four-year eternity that holds the pivot point from child to young adult. A microcosm of time that’s forged friendships, and challenged a few— a first handhold and a breakup too. It was the time when tastes were made, from characters in books that we’ll continue to grow with, to questionable fashion trends, we’ll laugh at in years. But for all these moments big and small, parents, teachers, and students learn to scrapbook the good, and just scrap the bad, proceeding towards a future filled with as much frightening uncertainty as soaring possibility.

Parting is sorrow.

For as much as I want to explain to these students that this period of time is nothing more than a blip on the radar, a tiny bite of what great is to come, I can’t help but not take my own advice. I’m overwhelmed with a sadness that’s only possible once you part ways with an experience that has molded you into a person you never knew you were capable of being. I felt like a best friend, someone that shared experiences with equally wide eyes. I felt like a trail guide, a reassuring voice that calmed fears. I felt like a parent too, not a day went by that I didn’t ask Miss Smith how each class went. I got to learn their names, their personalities, and their strengths. Rooting them on from the sidelines, I cheered when they did great, and wanted desperately to help when they tripped. I felt invested in them, because they showed me it was worth it. Lastly, I felt like an educator. In a building that houses brilliant teachers and staff, I’m proud to know I touched a fraction of the greatness they work resiliently to maintain year after year. I’ve realized my normal life is a break compared to the extensive work they put in 365 days a year, and to temporarily walk the halls for a few days makes me feel nothing short of grateful.

Remembering is sweet.

But it will be the great times that I choose the remember, and for all that leaves me, and us, in this coming week, the unbelievable adventure we all shared will always flood my head and heart with happiness whenever I reflect. Basking (and getting burnt) under a May afternoon’s sun, dancing to Taylor Swift from the speakers of a supercar that, for a brief moment, it felt like we owned. Getting to work with you as a class, a group, and individuals, hearing your stories and trying to help; hearing your stories and knowing I couldn’t, because you were just fine. I broke through the barriers of publicly discussing and critiquing my work, because needing help and feeling vulnerable is hard but crucial, and in turn you felt confident to share your work, because through admitting a fear we shared together, our writing (and ourselves) grew. Videos I loved to make, relationships I’ll always have, and a chance to take back the school dance I never had— this single year at Twin Valley makes the other 25 in my life kinda’ bland.

Thank you.

Thank you for embracing my work and I. For opening yourselves up to my challenge, and raising a bar I wasn’t sure could even be touched. You’ve surpassed what I thought an 8th grade class could accomplish. From the bonds and friendships, to the personalities and dedication, my time with you has meant the world. And so if parting is sweet sorrow, then I’ll hardly consider this goodbye. I’m optimistic that your stories will grow big, and I’ll see them again someday. Be it through Miss Smith, a local paper, or at a McLaren dealership— I’ll see you. And when things get rough, I’ll be there in memory or simply a few cities away. So this isn’t goodbye, more like a see ya later. To me, that thought is so much sweeter.

—Evan W.

8th Grade Formal— PhotoBooth

 

An Open Letter To My Students:

Dear Readers, I forgot to share this letter with you. It was meant for my students, and while they have read it, I feel it is important to share with you too, because you have become part of this journey. Thank you for joining along with me this year or for as long as you have been reading. Thank you for your comments and constant hits on the site, even when I lag in posting. Enjoy!

 

 

An Open Letter To My Students:

On the first day of school, the look on your faces when I told you to read five books by the end of September was priceless. And then when I told you, to write for twenty minutes a day on top of that, the fear in your eyes almost made me back down. But at seven years into teaching, I’ve learned not to trust your eyes, at least not in moments like that.

However, the truth is I wasn’t sure if you could do it. I mean my fancy teacher books, blogs, and workshops had said that you could, but I wasn’t sure. It seemed like an insane amount of reading and writing. Even when I asked my Mom about it, she thought I was crazy (and my mom, well she’s my teacher expert hero). And so what you might not have heard in the mist of your fear was the trepidation in my voice— and maybe that has been our journey. Fear.

Maybe what you don’t know about me is that I love safety. There is nothing more comforting than knowing an outcome before a task has begun. In my past, if I didn’t know the outcome, I simply would have found a different way. The risk of failing, the risk of getting hurt or worse being laughed at, has always been too great.

Yet for some reason this year, the fear felt like less of a “stop right there” and more of an “I dare you to try”.

I was at a crossroad in my career passion and you gave me your hands, your pencils, and your trust. At night, sometimes I would wake up panicked, wondering if I had a lesson that would engage you, wondering if I was giving the right amount of feedback, wondering if I was still the teacher you needed me to be.

Then came you. You guys took what I gave you, and brought it to the next level. You exceeded my expectations academically, forcing me to raise the bar again and again. But that wasn’t all; you got excited and started dreaming too. Soon your dreams and ‘what ifs’ became our new curriculum. I wasn’t alone at all; I had 75 people planning with me, giving feedback, dreaming bigger.

I need to thank you for pushing your fears aside. I need to thank you for giving me the freedom to teach you as individuals. I need to thank you for allowing me to fail and for dreaming with me again.

After 180 days together, these are the messages I hope we both take home: When life hands you a healthy dose of fear and you’re not sure you can go on, know that sometimes when fear whispers it’s less a place to stop and more of a dare to press on. When your plans fail, when something doesn’t work, and everything falls to pieces— keep dreaming, keep chasing after . . .  there is a supercar just around the corner.

In closing, I believe children’s book author A.A. Milne has said it the best, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together . . . there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Sincerely your teacher, mentor, coach, editor, hairdresser, stain remover, relationship advice giver, DJ,  fearless dreamer,

 

Miss Smith

 

7 days lucky

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

—A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

We have 7 days of school left. It is not enough time. Do you remember this phase from last year? Ah yes, I go insane and worry, worry, worry, run, plan, worry, hug— then they’re gone.

 

I don’t even like Memorial Day; I mean I like what it stands for, but could we switch it? Make it two weeks later? I did not want to have off today, not one bit.

 

I am not going to write long, just enough to let you know, I exist, and that this time of year demands every ounce of me in a much different way than all the other months.

 

And so, I’m off to jot some last minute notes to students writers. I’ll get back with you, hopefully before my face is wet with the tears of another round of goodbyes.

 

If you’re a teacher like me, try to treasure the insanity of these next days. Sit next to the kids you know need to be heard. Chat with them in the hallway and invite them to have lunch with you (or horror of horrors, go have lunch with them). Take these last days, and let them know just how lucky you feel . . .

Photo credit goes to Evan— if you like the style of this photo e-mail me at rachel@notesfromahappyteacher.org and I’ll get you in touch with him.