This was written in April of 2012 as a final self assessment for my TNLB course. Given the guidelines to assess yourself as a teacher, we, my fellow zombies and I, were able to express ourselves in whichever way fit us best. This is my expression. It provides encouragement whenever I find it, so I’m hoping that posting this will help some of you feel the same.
Dear Ms. S.,
You’re probably writing lesson plans for your middle school English classes, fawning over your “babies” and how proud you are that they did such an incredible job on the NJ ASK (because they did). Amid lesson plans, class trip forms, and the occasional IEP meeting, I feel that you’ve lost sight of who you are, so let me remind you. You are you.
You are a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. You are optimistic. You are a dreamer. You refuse to believe that someone can’t do something. You are a fan of lists and abhor standardized tests. You live for school supply shopping in September and could write your life’s story on post-its. You were a student; you are a teacher.
Let’s face it: you hate high school, and that’s okay! Be thankful that you learned this early on and were able to tweak your goals to be able to reach for what you really want in life. You’re probably smiling at the fact that this is completely accurate. You found your passion at a time when you thought you were a lost cause, trapped in between MLA citations and UBD stages. It hit you, and you knew. You found your calling, and every day since, you’ve been dying to get back into a middle school classroom and embrace the love and the excitement, the chaos and the disorder, all the works of middle school life.
You’re a passionate person, something that has always appeared in your work. Passion will drive your lessons, your parent-teacher conferences, and the comments on your students’ essays. You’ve always said that it’s important to love what you do in life, and I know that if you follow your heart, trust your instincts, and embrace your students, you will, and you will change lives.
I could go on and on about the things you should do in your classroom, say in your classroom, and expect in your classroom, but learning is half of the experience. However, I do have advice for you as you continue on in your career. Never forget what it feels like to be a student. I’m writing this to you now as a 22 year old stressing over finals, unit plans, research papers, and scholarship applications. Never forget what it feels like to get an A and what it feels like to fail. Never forget the stress, the all nighters, the coffee binges and the frantic text messages. These are experiences that your kids face daily. They juggle school work with sports and potentially small jobs. They have social lives outside of school, just as you had in college. The next time you plan on piling on the page numbers, think of how it felt to be in their shoes.
Always stay true to who you are. It may be a silly thing to say to you – an adult – but there may come a time when your character is challenged. A frustrated student. An angry parent. A challenging administrator. A disgruntled governor. You as a teacher will face opposition (and a lot of it). Don’t forget why you entered this profession and what helped you get so far. Don’t let the nay-sayers hinder you from being the teacher that I know you can be.
Embrace every student in your building, not just those who walk through your door. You have the opportunity to be a listener for those who have something to say, a shoulder for those who need to cry, a source of advice for the confused, a critic for those seeking opinions, a tour guide into another time period, and a facilitator of the creation of dreams. Your role extends beyond the walls of your classroom. Be there, be open, and be willing. You have their worlds in the palm of your hand, and you can make a difference in who they become with a kind word and a pleasant smile.
Continue to learn. You may think you know everything now, but there is so much out there that you still don’t know. Find new ways to link other subjects to your material (especially math). Prove to the students that social studies and science and foreign language are awesome (even though English is clearly the best). Always be open and willing to try something new. You remember having the veteran teachers: the old cronies that taught you the same way they had for the past 30 years. Break the mold. Try new things. Keep your students guessing, and don’t be afraid to reach for others for new ideas.
As Kenny Chesney has told you before, “you didn’t get here alone.” Never forget the beautiful souls who spent countless hours writing lesson plans with you. Facebook may be insignificant now, but they are some of the most special people you’ve come across in your life. If faced with opposition, you have fifteen people to cry to, to laugh with, and to look toward for inspiration. That’s a rare and special thing.
As you sit at your desk grading papers in purple pen and smiling at student progress, remember the road that brought you there. Remember what is important to you. Remember that you are helping students to realize their dreams. Remember that your role is more important than the amount on your pay check or the scores of the state test. Remember that you are a teacher.
I always told you that you would make an excellent teacher. Now, the stage is yours.