I opened up my Facebook messages and saw the above image. One of my former students cleaned out her closet and found this old letter from my teaching days in the mix. She was sweet enough to snap a pic and send it to me, emphasizing it was one of the items she would be keeping.
I remember the student well. I don’t recall the exact circumstances that prompted my message, and don’t even remember ever possessing that paper. However, somehow it held enough meaning that she has kept it around for 15+ years, and who knows how many more.
When I taught, I always felt guilty for not taking more time to offer encouragement. The students would beam when commended on something. Parents offered heartfelt thanks when they were told about their son’s or daughter’s accomplishments. How many others may have needed a “keep your chin up” note that I may have missed?
I have had a handful of students contact me over the years, or I have come across them at various places in the community. Never have they mentioned an amazing math lesson I taught. They don’t comment on how we did daily oral language exercises. They do mention something creative I did, how I helped them, or much like this situation, they refer to a note I wrote them. They remember how my room was decorated in a Wizard of Oz theme, and how I loved the movie.
Teachers certainly don’t get into teaching for the money. I would guess most do it to make a difference and have a small impact on the world. The more time they have to spend documenting what they teach and filling out hours of paperwork, the less time they have for the tasks that really matter to the students. There is less time for creativity when preparing lessons, and less time to notice the emotional needs of the kids. When I began teaching, the job market was inundated with fresh, new teachers hoping to be employed. It is no wonder we are now faced with a teacher shortage and school systems are being forced to hire individuals not 100% qualified to be in the classroom.
I am grateful to Austin’s teacher this year. She makes time in her day (somehow!) to send notes of praise home. He comes home glowing, and we proudly post them on the fridge. Amazingly, he’s not as grumpy about his homework when these notes come home. That’s a win for me, too!
My favorite part about receiving the picture of the note to my student is how the encouragement managed to come full circle. I often wonder if my words matter. Does anyone really hear me and does what I say somehow make a difference? This note was proof that people do hear, and it does indeed matter to them. It came to me at just the perfect time.
I beg you to offer some thoughtful words to someone today. Whether it be your own child, your child’s teacher, a former teacher, or just a good friend, take a moment to let them know they are seen and cared about. You never know when you might need some encouragement, and what you do might just come back to bless you.
I would love to hear about any notes you have kept over the years and what they mean to you.