As you start your senior year of high school, I wanted to write you a little something. I may not have taught you when you were in primary school or knew you when you were little 1st graders with huge dreams, but I was privileged enough to teach you (among the other secondary classes. This is to all of you!) in the 10th grade. That year, my friends, I believe you taught me just as much as I taught you. If not more.
Little did I know when I pretended to be a teacher at 7 years old, and forced my little brother to sit through endless lessons I had prepared about addition and American Girl dolls, I was practicing for my very first classroom: all of you. I know it must have been difficult for you to accept me as your new teacher that year. I know it took some time for you to trust me. I was another new face that you offered skeptical smiles to on the first day of school (I don’t blame you). You graciously corrected me when I mispronounced your names that day as I took attendance. A few months later, however, you threw me a surprise birthday party and literally shoved my face into birthday cake. That year, you all let me in as your teacher and I wanted to take a moment to say thank you.
Thank you for giving me a chance as your teacher. You let me know what lessons worked, and what didn’t. Pen pals with a high school Spanish class from Kansas City? Sweet! Knowing all of Julius Caesar’s backstory for an essay question on a test? Not my best of ideas. While you may have driven me crazy by testing how I taught and managed a classroom, it grew and stretched me as an educator. You opened my eyes to a future career that I would fall in love with. You gave me a chance to realize that teaching is what I was born to do.
With that, thank you for teaching me. You taught me about patience and flexibility when the electricity went out or the rain was too loud on the metal rooftop to hear anything. For teaching me Spanish or teaching me, through fits of laughter, how to dance. Thank you for trusting me with your stories and for teaching me about strength.
Thank you for some of the best moments. For example:
- I will never forget when you woke me up at 5:20 AM on my birthday by setting off fireworks on my front porch and singing “Happy Birthday” at the top of your lungs.
- When we had a class pet for the day because a random puppy found its way into our classroom.
- Eating our lunches together around a crammed table in the classroom to celebrate Thanksgiving.
- When we traveled to a smaller school in an aldea for Children’s Day and had to cross a flooded creek and bridge to get there. I remember literally almost falling face first in the creek while jumping over rocks and a group of you dancing your way across the bridge. Because obviously.
Class of 2018, as you get into your senior year, remember this…
You are all so incredibly bright and capable. Keep studying this year, even for classes you don’t particularly like. Read books. Ask questions (and don’t settle for cookie cutter answers). Apply for those colleges and scholarships even when you get discouraged. I believe in you.
Your hearts are big and brave. While your pasts do not define you, your stories are powerful. Tell them. Help others and help each other. Be kind. Stand up for what you believe in. Believe that you truly can change lives; I know that you’ve changed mine.
I am so proud of each one of you. I miss you all more than you know and am cheering you on every day. Enjoy your senior year and work hard. The world is waiting for you to get out there.