Dear Class of 2018,
I remember you. Before fidget-spinners and dabbing, you danced Gangnam Style down the hallways and into my heart. You were my first group of sixth graders, and you introduced me to life as a middle school teacher. I really can’t help but wonder if you still sing “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” by boy band One Direction at the top of your lungs.
And I wonder if you remember sixth grade. Those first few scary days of navigating a school of more than a thousand kids and trying to open an impossible locker? Or literally running into my classroom, crashing into a bookshelf, and spilling the contents of your supply box onto the floor? Or falling out of a chair during silent reading and giving the whole class a case of the giggles? Or losing your tooth, dropping it, and watching it dribble across the room?
Trust me. It all happened.
You must be bigger now and your faces more defined, but I hope the best parts of you remain.
To the serial reader, the one who always read under the desk instead of paying attention…
I hope you still do that. I secretly loved it. But I had to redirect you once in a while for the sake of the lesson and our class dynamics. Please keep reading with your critical eye. We need more people like you.
To the one whose parents spoke only Spanish…
You worked twice as hard as anyone–balancing your school work with translating the English-speaking world to your parents. You missed my class a few times to go to the doctor with your mother and ill younger sibling because you wanted to help your mom get the best care for her child. And you always asked for make-up work. You still inspire me.
To the disheveled wanderer…
Your crooked glasses were part of your charm. For some reason, you usually had a pencil tucked behind your ear like an old-school news reporter, even though you could never find a piece of paper. You were always looking, and you will find that is half the battle.
To the girl who wore her sister’s shoes…
Your sister was in college then and you adored her. You talked about her in many of your journal entries, and one day you even wore her espadrille wedges to school. You wobbled into my classroom, and I offered you bandaids to cover the blisters. I hope she knows how much you love and admire her. It would surely be one of the best compliments of her life.
To the boy who complained about every activity…
I should have asked you for your suggestions. I should have known that you needed something different, something more challenging, something of your own. Because of you, I learned that I needed to incorporate more choice and freedom into every lesson. I hope you know that your voice matters.
To the one who needed it to be perfect…
You started over more times than I can count, leaving tiny, pink eraser scraps at your desk every day. Your questions and connections were bigger than I expected from an eleven year old, and your dedication made me believe in the future. Your effort made a difference then, and it will make a difference for years to come. I can’t wait to see your first published novel, trip to space, or gold medal hanging around your neck.
To all of my kids graduating this year…
On my way to becoming a mom, you were my first babies. I reminded you to write your homework in your assignment notebooks, and I reminded you to tie your shoes. I rooted for your academic success and helped some of you pick up the pieces of your first broken heart.
In return, you taught me to how to really listen, how to bend not break, and how to have more fun. Teachers are always looking for lessons, and you were full of them. You left such an impression on me.
Now it’s time to impress the world.
Like I said before every assessment, “You’re going to be great.” I mean it now more than ever.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your story.
P.S.: To read an up-lifting open letter to moms about this year’s graduation, please see fellow contributor Liz Hawkin’s post.