Thanks to Hurricane Irma and a rearranged state testing schedule, during the week our holiday calendar sets aside to celebrate you, you were preoccupied with important testing duties and school responsibilities that held back our festivities. But now, with the end of the year upon us, I wanted to take the opportunity to write something for you because this year’s closing feels a bit more emotional and lately, I can’t stop thinking about what you each mean to our family.
I turn 40 later this year. With it, I have acquired a few gray hairs, thank God some wisdom, more confidence in my skin and countless cherished memories, including ones from years when I too spent my days teaching other people’s children while dreaming of my own. But today, I want to note the important acquisition of over 2,200 handoffs. Six years, three children, twelve teachers and 2,200 mornings of getting them ready and walking them to a door where I hand them off to you and then turn around, trusting that the things that mean most to me in life are safe in your care. I admit, the first few of those handoffs were really more extractions, and I apologize. I guess it only takes a few times of parking a helicopter before noting that a fast-moving car is the more emotionally responsible form of school transport.
I’ve been asked, “What do you do if your child has a bad teacher?” And while I’m sure they’re out there, I’m so grateful to say we’ve never had one. Each of you has gone so far beyond your job requirements to nurture, teach and know my children, I hardly know how to thank you. As a teacher, I fully recognize the time commitment it takes to be the kind of teacher you are. And as a parent, I want you to know that the things you each have done for our children have made a remarkable impact on our family and will never be forgotten. The people our children will be someday–the confidence and belief they’ll have in themselves, the bravery they’ll demonstrate in attempting hard things and the kindness they’ll give to the world around them…I want you to see it someday so that you can feel pride in knowing you helped create that beautiful thing.
I want you to know that I will never forget the night one of you asked if it was okay to stop by and then knocked on my door after her particularly rough day. I want you to know that I held back tears when I opened the door to see you standing there, holding a pint of ice cream and two spoons, and you said, “Where is she?”
I want you to know that in those IEP meetings when sometimes it felt intimidating and overwhelming, when I saw you, I felt like I was home.
I want you to know that so many texts were fired off to my family this year, telling them about the things you are doing, the ways you show you cared, the life lesson you took the time to impart. Each of you are legends in our family’s eyes. My parents and siblings–even the ones in other states–know your names because you are talked about in beautiful ways. What you do matters so much.
Of the 2,200 handoffs I’ve made, I want you to know one that stands out this year. I will never forget dropping off my children the morning after the Parkland shooting. I could see it in a lot of parents’ eyes–we were heartbroken, we were stunned, we were all imagining what those other parents were feeling. I wish I could say these things didn’t cross my mind, but I’ve thought about the layout of the school, the locks on the doors, how long it would take me to get there from home. I want you to know that the only thing that brought any peace to these visions was you. I pictured you hugging my child because I know you would. I imagined your calm voice and your assurring presence. I knew deep in my heart that while your job should not require it, you would stand in harm’s way to make sure my child back got back in my arms that night.
I want to thank each of you for the texts you sent this year–the “I think she’s a little off today” ones or the pictures of him smiling or the “She did it! She did it!” texts because your excitement for her accomplishment was so near my own mom pride, it couldn’t wait for an e-mail at the end of the day.
Thank you for being tough on them–for expecting them to reach their potential, for setting their standards high. That belief in them is nothing short of true love.
Thank you for your creativity. For scrambling to come up with new ways of teaching and assessing when you realized one way wasn’t working. I will remember each of your smiles as you excitedly told me, “I have an idea…” I will hang on to that smile and use it in my parenting–to hold true to the hope that there are so many different ways to stir up the beautiful things that are in my child.
Thank you for extending this creativity and support and belief to all of your students. I’ve seen you do it. I know we are not the only ones. Watching you each talk about your students is like watching a mom–I know you love them. I know you won’t ever give up on them.
I want you to know that I know your job is hard–that summers off are nothing compared to the heart you bring when you’re there. I want you to know that when you’re turning your classroom lights off at 9 pm because you stayed late to plan, or when you cry at home because you’re tired and you can’t keep up, or when later this summer you open those test scores that don’t measure 90% of what your job is, I see you. And I’ve noticed every single effort you’ve taken this year to support and love my child.
Next week, there will be one last handoff. And then you’ll give them back to me for the summer. Your names will be spoken throughout the summer. And someday, years from now, I will watch my children walk across stages, accept jobs, fall in love, go through really hard times and hold true to who they are and what they are capable of…and I will think of you. I will send you a silent little thank you, wherever you are in the world, for being part of this great adventure.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.