Dear Former Student and Fellow Writer…
Just the other day, I happened upon an email notification from our school’s Google Drive account and I suddenly realized that I had missed this sharing of a Google Doc file from you from earlier in the summer. I apologize, and I hope you will forgive me. I was not avoiding my former students. Honest.
Instead, I was deeply involved in my own learning projects for much of the summer, working and playing with other teachers around Connected Learning principles in hopes of finding new ways to engage the students in my classroom. Together, we made videos, wrote poems, remixed images, collected audio and thought about teaching.
(The student’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.)
And now that I am looking at what you shared with me in your Google Drive – this colorful badge that you created after our year together in sixth grade writing class and a wonderful letter to accompany the badge – I am deeply touched that you spent time making this for me.
Rebecca, I’m struck by a few things.
First, I am amazed that you even remembered my own Dream Scene project from the start of the school year. You may recall how I always tried to bring my own writing and projects to the classroom, and my Dream Scene comic last September was about becoming a published author someday.
I know, from our many conversations all year, that this goal of getting published is also a dream of yours, and I know, from reading your writing all year, that you are well on your way to making that aspiration a reality. You may very well get there before me, and I hope that is true, Rebecca.
Second, it occurs to me, as a teacher, how wonderful it is to have former students who wish to stay connected with the past and who take the time to make the connection. I know from my own experience as a student that there were many teachers that I would quickly forget as soon as the summer rolled around, or teachers I remembered just enough not to want to stay in any kind of contact with them.
I also know there were teachers who made an impact on me, and whom I wish I had stayed in touch with. My high school music teacher was a creative anchor throughout my years, giving me space and encouragement to explore music composition. A college professor was the first person to ever say to me, “You will make a great teacher some day,” even though I laughed it off at the time and concentrated on becoming a newspaper journalist instead. I guess that was all just a detour until teaching called out to me.
Unlike you, I never took the time to reach out to my former teachers and now, being on the other end of that type of communication, I realize how touching it is to receive such a gift. Being a teacher, Rebecca, is like being a gardener, in that you plant seeds and nurture the soil, but you never really know which flowers will bloom in which way. What it takes is faith that what we do today in the classroom will have an impact on students’ lives years from now.
In some ways, this age of digital communications has made the act of reaching out to former teachers so much easier, but it still takes a desire to write. You shared not just this badge and last year’s stories with me, Rebecca, but you also shared the strong connection that writers have with each other. You asked for feedback. You appreciated the comments. You thanked me. I was always honored to read your drafts.
As I write this reflective piece in the days before the new school year begins, I am starting the process of gearing up for a new class of sixth graders. Actually, four new classes. Eighty or so new young writers to encourage and inspire. Your note to me – though stuck in the bins of my email all summer long – is like a burst of fresh air, reminding me once again of all the possibilities that await us in the year ahead.
I wish you a wonderful year ahead in your new school, Rebecca. I know in my heart of hearts that writing in all forms, from stories to poems to non-fiction, calls to you as it calls to me, and that the stories that live in your imagination will continue to make their way to the page, and that someday, I will be cracking open a novel with your name on the cover, or diving deep into another of your stories. I’m counting on it.
Your Sixth Grade Teacher and Fellow Writer,