It’s hard to believe we only have a few days left together, although it also somehow feels like this school year has lasted decades. As always, I’ll simultaneously be cheering you on as you move on to bigger and better things and wishing I could hang onto you just a little longer and fix some of the mistakes I made. It’s funny. You all were my thirteenth class. I’ve been teaching as long as you’ve been alive. You’d think by now I’d know what I’m doing. But as I look back on our year together, I’m astounded by how much you’ve taught me.
You’ve kept me up on pop culture.
I can’t quite say I’m fluent in Cardi B. yet, but I’m getting there! Like the rest of the country, we’ve talked about Childish Gambino the last couple of weeks. I’ve been amazed at the insights you bring to a text—things that might have never crossed my mind. You’ve yet to convince me of the superiority of rolled ice cream, though, so bring me a few more samples if you’d like to change my mind before final exams are over.
You’ve taught me life skills.
I can repair pants with a stapler, I can identify the differences between pink eye and recreational drug use, and I know where to find ringworm medication in Publix. I saved the number for our state’s crisis hotline in my phone. None of those were particularly enjoyable learning experiences, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy some day.
You’ve helped me grow in patience and empathy.
It’s so easy to become annoyed when you don’t do your homework, or when you bully your classmates, or when you make terrible, dangerous choices. And yet, again and again, you remind me that if I take the time to ask questions and listen to the answers, I might be surprised. Maybe you weren’t doing your homework because you’ve been working nights with your mom to help pay the rent. Maybe there’s a situation at home that needs our attention. Regardless of the specifics, you taught me to be slow to jump to conclusions and quick to listen. I know it’s a lesson I’ll forget sometimes, but I’ll keep trying.
You’ve helped me celebrate small victories.
Maybe you didn’t make the honor roll, or get the lead in the school play, or have perfect behavior. But by the end of the year, you know that the word “you” has three letters. That’s a win for me.
You’ve shattered—and then raised—my expectations.
So many of you came to me with challenges … special needs, limited English proficiency, physical disabilities. But every time I tried to make things easier for you, you proved that you were capable of more than I would have guessed. You challenged me, and more importantly, you challenged yourselves this year.
You’ve increased my tolerance for silliness and shenanigans.
Yep, some days your beloved teacher is Just. Not. Feeling it. But did you accept my excuses about having a cold, being tired, or needing to enter grades? Absolutely not! You kept up your craziness—playing pranks, hiding under my desk, drawing lewd symbols on the covers of my textbooks—and demanding the best I had to give you day after day after day. So, uh, thanks?
You’ve taught me flexibility.
Man, I made some killer lesson plans this year. I made sure they were differentiated and engaging. These lessons were standards based and scaffolded within an inch of their lives. They were also a disaster in many cases. You constantly challenged me to teach and respond and interact in new ways to meet your needs. And the challenge was surprisingly fun!
And, as always, you’ve given me so much hope for the future.
It’s so easy to watch the news or check social media and see complaints about “kids these days” and assume that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But you have taught me that the people who believe that are absolutely, unequivocally wrong. Not a single one of you did the Tide pod challenge (or if you did, at least you didn’t tell me about it). You didn’t stick prophylactics up your nose. Instead, I watched you support each other through a difficult year and work tirelessly toward your goals.
We’ve spent 175 days together, give or take a few. I’ve gotten more crow’s feet, you’ve gotten taller, and I’d like to think we’ve all had some personal growth this year. After a whole year of class together, some of you know what a thesis statement is, and a handful of you can diagram a sentence. I hope that every single one of you has found a book you unreservedly love. I hope you’re leaving this year a little wiser and a little more hopeful than you started it. I know I am, and for that, I’m grateful to you.
How have your students taught you this year? Share it with other teachers on our WeAreTeachers Chat groupon Facebook.
Plus, a list of things this teacher plans NOT to do on summer break.