It's very easy to lose perspective in the classroom. So many things have to be done right this second that, at times, the bigger picture gets blurry; I'm so hyper-focused on the to-do list items that have the most immediate implications for my stress level that I lose the why. Recently I was reminded exactly why I teach when I received a letter from a former student that brought me back to the big picture, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Dear Ms. Herring,
I am in 8th grade Careers class. Our assignment is to pick our favorite teacher and write why you're so special. I picked you! I want to start off by saying you were the best teacher ever. You made things fun. Every day in your class, I felt so safe. I felt like it was okay to fail, and if I did, you would help me. I never liked English until 7th grade. I was a slow learner, but you kept trying and didn't give up on me. Most teachers didn't care. Without you, I most likely wouldn't be where I am now. I just want to say thank you so much for not giving up on me throughout the school year.
Every afternoon when I would leave your class, we would say goodbye, but you would say "Have a great day, Raven!" It might not seem like a big thing to you, but it was to me, knowing that after class you would be there smiling at me. You always made my day when I left. It really meant a lot to me when you would not let me fail. You always said "You can do it" or "You can be better. I know you can."
I know you might not remember me, but that's okay. I just want you to know I am thankful I got to meet you.
Ya'll. I literally got closer to tears with every. single. word. this child wrote to me. Teaching is a struggle sometimes. Between the paperwork, planning, grading, and classroom managing, there are days when it's hard to remember the "why," but this sweet student reminded me exactly why I chose this profession. I chose it because kids are important, and the idea that there are kids in our educational system that feel forgotten and lost breaks my heart into a million pieces. I love my content, but I can live in a world where I don't talk about beautiful literature everyday. I simply can't live in a world where there are kids who need to be loved and nurtured and reminded that they have the potential for awesomeness.
As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on things for which I'm thankful. My job is definitely one of those things. It may be frustrating and overwhelming at times, but it also provides me with the opportunity to interact with kids everyday who need to be reminded that they are capable of more than they think. It gives me the opportunity to encourage kids to fail forward. We grow the most when we mess up and figure out how to pick ourselves up and try again. These moments of painful growth are probably our most valuable, but in an age where quick fixes make failure seem like the stuff of losers, our students need us to help them dust themselves off, so they can try again. They need to be reminded that they can do better and that our classrooms are the safest places for them to figure out how to be successful.
So as we finish out this final week before Thanksgiving break, and as we inch toward the close of the semester, I find myself recommitted to the why. I teach for kids like Raven. I teach because every kid matters. I teach because every kid deserves to know he matters.