To Whom it May Concern:
You’ve made it. You’ve persevered through the most difficult school year of our lives, and come out the other side. Along the way, you’ve been more incredible than you know.
I realized how amazing you are a few weeks ago when my son mentioned that his teacher – someone he respects and admires – had passed along an insight that too often feels like a secret.
“Miles, I think you’re a really good kid.” And he meant it.
What does this have to do with you?
Well, Miles is in sixth grade. Like all sixth graders, life often feels strange and awkward. But those eight words have changed things. When the world seems wrong, he remembers that his teacher genuinely likes him. It’s a powerful source of comfort.
And that comfort came from a simple sentence his teacher probably doesn’t even remember. Just one of the millions of things that he did as an educator that day.
You, Reader, played that role this year. Your students, regardless of who they are, just endured a strange, awkward, and sometimes terrible year. On a daily basis, you threw little noble acts into that pool of awfulness.
Those gestures gave more solace and strength than you know.
You haven’t been perfect this year; I know it. But dozens or hundreds or thousands of times, your acts of kindness changed the trajectory of a student’s day – and sometimes, they changed their lives.
Make a list.
Go back and list as many times as you can that you shared an affirmation, or helped a student achieve a breakthrough. Include any time a student understood that they were more capable than they knew, or when they smiled and you made their day.
Take your time. Keep building your list over the course of days – maybe weeks. Those moments of impact will come back to you as you reflect on your year.
Don’t forget about colleagues and parents! They’re part of the school community, too, and your impact on them matters.
Your list will be incomplete; that’s part of its beauty. No matter how many moments you remember, there will always be some you forget. Your true list is longer than the one that you write.
Don’t tell anyone; some things mean more when they’re secret. But take it out every once in a while. Look it over.
This will help you become a better teacher. You’ll start looking more intentionally for ways to add to your list – looking for ways to have a positive impact on a student’s life.
But most importantly, your list will serve as its own source of solace and strength. It will bring you back to those moments when you made the world a better place. It will remind you of an incredible, powerful, life-defining truth:
You are a teacher.