After 23 years of teaching, you never know about about the long-term impact you have on all of your students. I have been surprised when running into my former high school students as adults. One is now teaching English at my current school. I always hope that I have nurtured the life-long love of learning, reading and writing. We also don't know the impact of our other actions. We don't always have tangible evidence of the difference we made. This morning a message on Facebook reved up my day of amazing into full throttle.
Sara, a student who was a freshman in my English class in 2002, messaged me about how she was grateful that I let students come into my classroom during lunch. She shared, "During that time you started to introduce me to books you thought I would like, and as I had always enjoyed reading, I started to LOVE it. I counted and I ended up reading over 100 books that year when you were my English teacher." That is a story I love to hear!
At that time in my career, my students ate lunch in my classroom. My high school principal allowed kids that freedom on the campus. My classroom became a safe space. My nerdy boys would bring their laptops and communicate through their games. never talking. We would play heavy metal or whatever students were listening to through the audio enhancement system. Others came to lunch too.
Sara was one of those students. She went on to thank me, "for taking the time to recognize my desire to read and discover new books/authors. And most of all, providing a place where I could feel not so alone during a tough time! It may not have seemed like a big deal, but it meant a lot to me, I just thought you should know." Thank you for letting me know. I keep these notes in the top drawer of my desk. They are for the tough days.
Teaching is an avocation not just a profession. We can wake up every day and read about the wrongs in education and what needs to be fixed, but as my mentor Janet Allen always professed and I continue to repeat that mantra, "We are the professionals in the room." No matter what, we have to make decisions in the best interests of our students.When I say my goal is to cultivate life-long readers and writers, I mean it and I know we don't do it by testing. We do it by listening, and book pushing and providing sacred safe spaces for kids to read, write, learn, grow and just be. Thank you for confirming that Sara!