Recently, teachers everywhere have received an abundance of “thank yous” as we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week May 4-8. Each year we do this in much the same way other professions do. There are often small gifts and breakfast and/or lunch is provided. It is a nice way to start the wind down of the school year – being “appreciated” for a job that is too often undervalued.
This year, however, at the end of the week, I found an envelope in my school mailbox with “Mrs. Doolin” written across it in large letters – the work of a female student (Most teachers can always decipher that info right away.) Little did I know that this small envelope contained the biggest gift I’d been given professionally in years and was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t part of any planned, scheduled event in the myriad of the expected that week, but the work of a student who has gone on from my build.
The sheer effort of getting this to my small box in the teacher work room took effort which gave me pause right way, but it was the contents of the small envelope – the heart of this student and her message -that moved me to tears and gave me the intense kind of feeling that (although they are appreciated) no appreciation week gift ever had.
With permission of this student, I am going to post the letter I found inside the envelope below. As you read it consider that in the midst of the overwhelming job we as teachers have taken on, in the craziness of our multi-levels of responsibility, throughout the highs and lows of it all…we know every child isn’t going to love us and sing our praises. That would be realistic in any world, and frankly, it isn’t about us. It’s about the students, and what we want most is to know that we make a difference for our students. Hopefully, that student will go on to make a difference for others and we impact beyond our little classroom.
In the end, everyone loves to be appreciated and the handmade gifts are truly still the best…. Thank you Abbey. I am so proud to say I was your teacher.
Dear Mrs. Doolin,
Everyone has that turning point in their life. A climax of sorts. Something that, in the moment, it doesn’t seem that immense or life-changing at all. One day, you look back and think, “how did I not realize this would forever change me?” My turning point, my climax, began in my seventh grade language arts class when my first assignment from you was to write a letter.
Prior to seventh grade, I was never fond of writing. I was never fond of books. I was never fond of words. They were always there, an inevitability. Through the year, this inevitability grew to appreciation which then blossomed into fondness. I will always be fond of writing, books, words and for that I’m forever grateful you were the driving force in my turning point, my climax.
The other day in language class, we were discussing what it meant to become “of age.” In essence, coming of age could mean literal growing old or growing in maturity. What I learned was that coming of age was an allegory of sorts. On the surface are subtexts of literal growing old like obtaining a driver’s license when turning sixteen or voting when turning eighteen. Under the surface is the deeper meaning of growing in maturity consisting of things like losing your innocence or death of a loved one.
I believe I became “of age” after your class. Not only did I become a teenager, but I lost my innocence. I lost my childish innocence, the one that needs to be shed of. This innocence was a black and white view of the world I had laid out in my mind. I believed that since bad things only happened at a distance from me and there was nothing I could do to change them. You taught me how wrong this view was. You taught me not only that I could help change problems at a distance from me but that there were also problems close to home. I learned there were still millions of slaves in America and this absolutely terrified me. Gone was my bland thought that problems weren’t going on around me. I learned, by writing a proposal for KUNA and performing on the international stage, that I could help change problems at a distance from me. Gone was my single minded thought that I couldn’t be a global citizen.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (William Arthur Ward) You have inspired me. You have taught me I can do anything I set my mind to. You have taught me to “climb into his (others) skin and walk around in it,” as Atticus said to Scout when explaining compassion in To Kill a Mockingbird. Books you recommended me to read like The Running Dream and Out of My Mind taught me this valuable gift, compassion. I remember one instance where I gave my Mr. Gatti’s tickets away to a young girl in a wheelchair (reminding me of The Running Dream) who only had a few. She was stunned but thanked me. This part is the part I remember the most vividly, the part I feel like happened yesterday. An older woman rushed up to me as I was exiting the arcade. She had a crease between her eyebrows, a question marred on her features. Her crease unraveled as she asked, “Did you give my daughter those tickets?” I responded with a simple, “Yes.” She looked at me with wide eyes, as if seeing me in whole new light. She grabbed my hands. “Thank you,” she whispered in amazement. I answered, “You’re welcome,” and tried to not cry. I held it in until I got in the car and I burst into tears. My mom was completely freaked out. It took me a little while but I finally told her what happened.
I will always be grateful for the impact you had on me, for the inspiration you provided me with. Thank you for taking the brunt of my childish ignorance in order to hit my turning point home, my climax.