Reading and Writing Our Way Forward
Dear 8th Graders,
When I walked into your fifth grade classes in September of 2016, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was 23, it was my second year of full time teaching and I was already teaching a full schedule of 6th grade classes in addition to teaching you all. I don’t think I was able to learn everyone’s name until December! There were so many of you and I only saw you once a week! Little did I know that you all, cohesively as a group, would grow to develop a very special place in my heart.
5th graded quickly faded into 6th grade and I got to teach you again. Even then, I could sense a special connection with you. It might seem silly to you all, but my decision to move upstairs and teach 8th grade, and my decision to switch from teaching Social Studies to teaching English in order to do so, was all because of you. Telling you that I was moving up with you at the end of your 6th grade year is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever gotten to do as a teacher.
Now it’s 2020. Many of you grew a literal foot taller before my eyes. While the physical growth is the most obvious to the naked eye, your growth as people exceeds it twofold. Among you are artists, athletes, gamers, leaders, comedians, and some of the most authentic people I have the privilege of knowing. I love all of my students, but I don’t know if I’ll ever again get to see a group through this way and I’m so thankful it was you that I got to grow alongside.
I feel extraordinary grateful to have had the privilege of spending September through March with you in the classroom. I’m thankful to have seen how many of you were so engaged with the storytelling of S.E. Hinton in The Outsiders. I’m thankful for how much I have seen each and every one of you improve in your writing (in a way that I know will make you more prepared for high school). I’m thankful for how many of you I’ve seen become activists and advocates for change on social media. But, even more, I’m thankful for the small moments: For laughs. For conversations about your lives. For lunches out with groups of you. For every time one of you stole my camera and snapped a selfie or took a funny video. For long days after school helping you with your science fair projects. (And for even longer ones when we pretended to work on science fair projects or quiz revisions, but really just hung out and talked). Even for the time a certain student “accidentally” locked another certain someone in the closet during advisory. (Thank god we got him out before he peed in there). When I think of you all, these are the moments that come to mind, and no virus or shelter in place order can take those away from us.
This is not at all how I pictured the end of our four years together going, and I’m so very sorry about that. Just know that I’m here. I’ll always be your teacher, even if you’re no longer students sitting in my classroom. I’ll be your teacher when you feel alone in this time of social distancing. I’ll be your teacher when you're transitioning to the new world of high school this September (a transition that can, and should, still be very exciting for you). I’ll be your teacher in four years from now when you’re applying to college. And I’ll even be your teacher years after that when you’re starting careers and families. You know where to find me.