Dear awesome former teachers of mine,
First off, if you are one of the not so awesome teachers I had in my day, please disregard this note. I’m talking about the ones who:
a) focused only on the things about me you couldn’t tolerate (you were pretty intolerable yourself),
b) saw it necessary to share the negative with my parents but never thought it might be wise to share the positive (you were barking up the wrong tree),
c) threw garbage cans across the room when angry (you scared us, but it didn’t help your cause),
d) averaged zeroes in for missing work (ha, my mom took care of you),
e) embarrassed me in front of the class (and then sheepishly backpedaled when I called you on it),
f) put me on “the wall” if I was talking on the lunch line (loved being glared at),
g) made me feel unwelcome by indicating, aloud, that the class would be successful because “I see a lot of my people in this room,” (I dropped the class the next day),
h) picked the popular kid over me just because he was more “demonstrative,” (I was nicer, at least, and by the way, none of us even knew what “demonstrative” meant),
i) treated class time as a mixture of unintentionally humorous seriousness and unintentionally wasteful humor (your class was a joke and so were you),
k) hit on the cute girls (only you thought it wasn’t obvious/gross)
l) lectured to no end (at least in lecture halls I could read the newspaper or play word games),
m) yelled at me,
n) etc., etc., etc.
Yes, so if you are one of the ones who did any of those things, please just close this note. That is most of you. This note is really for the awesome teachers I had in my life. The teachers who:
a) sparked in me a love for zebras that I still have 20 years later (my students even know zebras are my favorite animal),
b) allowed me to explore and present places important to my family (Florida and Israel),
c) had the good sense to knock me off my high horse when I complained that my co-star in the play had more words than me (I told you I counted them. I think your words were, “Are you serious?”),
d) put a book in my hands that made me cry in front of my friends when I was 8 and made we cry in front of my students when I was 26 (Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes, it gets me every time),
e) invited our parents in for bagels and biographies (I was Babe Ruth),
f) invited our grandparents in (I can still see my grandmother being the only one to answer the questions I asked in front of all the grands. Me: “Who was your favorite teacher?” Grandmother: “Mrs. Ray.” Classic.),
g) gave my dad the opportunity to film “Aladdin” and “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” – my elementary plays – from the balcony (we watched them at a reunion a few years back),
h) was a confidante when I went through the worst bullying of my life (physical and mental) and more importantly, who took a stand in my defense,
i) exchanged letters with me once I graduated (handwritten, I wonder what happened to them),
j) wrote in my middle school year book, “You’ll be a star!” (I didn’t realize then that you probably wrote that for everyone, but it’s cool),
k) took me under your wing when I got to high school and helped shape where I was going (even though ultimately, that road wound up leading me elsewhere),
l) believed in me, appreciated me, and
m) saw something in me other teachers didn’t,
n) etc., etc., etc.
I want you wonderful people to know that when I approach my own teaching and interaction with students, I remember what it was like to be in your care and under your tutelage. I also remember your not so wonderful colleagues, because they had a way of teaching me so many things I shouldn’t do.
I guess, then, I should be thanking all of you. Some of you have helped shape me into the teacher I am. Others of you have helped me form my model of the teacher I never want to be.
Thank you for all the lessons. Thank you for being my teacher.
Your former student