My son, Spencer, has been blessed to have Amanda Atkins as his ELA teacher for the last two years. She’s a progressive teacher, always willing to be a learner herself. The curriculum and expectations for her classes are extremely rigorous—and I’m 100% OK with that. She has prepared my son to handle complex texts and to think in deep and meaningful ways.
Amanda recently posted an incredibly touching and inspiring message to her students on Facebook for the last day of school. I loved it so much, I asked for her permission to share it with all of you. Her thoughts are ones we as teachers (and former students) all share.
Before I Become Someone You Used to Know:
A Message to My Students on the Last Day of School
For you, the clock ticks on; ceaseless days pass without import—another page turned, another question answered. You take me back to my younger self, the student behind the desk, biding her time until she can escape the classroom. I carry her with me all the time: the one who never remembers her pencil, never finishes her reading, never quite fits in. She reminds me to have patience with you now, to see past your struggles, to proceed with hope. I’m sure at the core I’m still the same person I was back then, yet something has shifted with age. I have had too many last days of school to ignore the gravity of these moments. Your year will close without ceremony, an escape from another set of teachers that keep you from the very real business of living. For me, however, a bit of the light will leave with you when you rush out the door for the last time. I will become someone you used to know.
It may be hard to believe, but for the last year, I’ve carried all of you home with me at the end of each day. When I talk about you, I call you “my kids,” and that’s how I’ll continue to think of you long after you’ve forgotten about me. Sometimes I wake up in the night worried about the injury you’ve sustained, the defeat you’ve suffered, the parent you’ve lost, or the work you’ve neglected. I worry that one day you’ll find yourself with bruises and broken hearts and secrets too heavy for you to shoulder on your own. But I’m your teacher first, so I have to set that worry aside and make sure you have the skills you need to succeed. That’s the job. Still, when I watch you walk across the stage at graduation years from now, I’ll beam with pride and send a quiet wish into the universe that you’ll travel this life filled with humility and hunger and love. I’ll marvel at the men and women you’ll one day become. And if I have the misfortune of seeing your name in the arrest records, I’ll take that personally, too. I’ll wonder how I failed you, what I could have done to help you find a better path.
So as I bid adieu to this year and to you, I want to leave you with this advice: Be thoughtful. Be curious. Be the breath of fresh air in someone’s life. Take time to thank people, and surround yourself with those who lift you up in return. Remember that just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean you ARE right to say something. Sometimes it’s simply better to be kind than to be right because there aren’t enough apologetic words to erase the damage once it’s done. Don’t be afraid to risk big, and never be ashamed to fail. We all fail. Most importantly, remember this: You matter. You matter to me, and you will matter to more people than you can ever realize. Your time on this Earth is valuable, so respect the gift of each new day.
Y’all, thank you for being part of my life. Now go live yours, and try to read a few good books along the way.