As I sit here basking in the beginnings of my summer, the only thing running through my mind is I’m exhausted. I just wrapped up my eighth and hardest year of teaching high school and I feel like I’ve aged 10 years. Although I’m excited about some rest and relaxation, I can’t stop thinking about my students and their final parting thoughts.
This year as part of my final exam, I offered my English 9 and 10 students extra credit if they wrote me a letter detailing their experiences, good and bad, in my class. It was their chance to lay it all out there, but the amount of extra credit depended on the details they provided and the professionalism of their tone. I’ve never done this assignment before, and if I’m honest, I was curious and worried what they might say to me. I had A LOT of discipline problems and students who wouldn’t engage. I feel like I gave it everything I had, but fell far from my goals.
After pouring over 160 letters, I was shocked. Their words did not align with the constant eye rolls and complaining I witnessed every day.
So, I want to gift you the messages these students wrote to me. It was a surprising way to end a very difficult year, but these words are meant for all of my fellow teachers:
Thank you for always being there with a smile every day. I always looked forward to your class because you made it a good environment.
Thank you for never giving up on me, even when I deserved it.
Thank you for not just giving me worksheets and grammar, but reading interesting books and connecting them to the real world.
Thank you Ms. J for teaching me about professionalism. As much as I complained, I know that I will use this in life.
I’m sorry some students were so disrespectful to you. That was difficult to watch.
I like how you always change up your classroom, let us work together and gave us cool activities to do with each lesson.
I really feel like I owe you an apology for my behavior. You didn’t deserve that.
I wish you could be my teacher again next year. I will miss you.
I know teaching is hard and you don’t get paid what you deserve but thank you for always working hard and having interesting things to do in your classroom.
It was surprising and healing to hear this message from almost every single one of my students. Although each message had its own unique twist, what I heard over and over was gratitude. So, if I can encourage you to think about adding one more item to your teacher toolbox next year, it would be to give your students an opportunity to privately tell you what they think. It will transform your understanding of the classroom and hopefully rejuvenate your passion.
Have a Happy Summer!