My eldest child graduates from High School tomorrow.
There are teachers to whom I am profoundly grateful. I’ve written to a handful of them. But there are so many more to whom I have not yet written. And I’m running out of time…
The words in this post are taken from letters I did manage to write to specific teachers.
So much of what I have to say should be heard by a great many more. And not just those who have taught my child over the years, but those who’ve done these same things for children I don’t even know.
In this very small way, I’d like to express one mother’s gratitude to the extraordinary teachers who share their talents with our children, and shape our future …
To the amazing teachers who have invested their talents in my child,
The morning I watched my teenage daughter walk into the school building for her very last day of High School, I flashed back to the very first day I saw her walk into a school as a very young child, all those years back.
You were there. You were waiting, with your arms open to welcome her. My little girl started her journey with you. It was scary. You reassured her. It was hard. You helped her. At every step, you were there. And you are the one who set her on this incredible path. You set the tone for what her experiences could be like. You helped her understand — and you helped us all understand — what is important. And what just isn’t. In elementary school, you taught my child some of the most enduring lessons that she learned during her years in our school system. I still see the imprint you left on my child so many years ago.
And those years have gone by so quickly. Before I knew it, my little girl had become an adolescent. The rigor in her academics increased, and so did the expectations. It was a bumpy time. And in that turbulence, we found you. You were there to share your gifts, and smooth the way. What talents you have! How do you manage to help an adolescent find the excellence they have within, and inspire that child to bring it forward, time and time again? I don’t think my daughter had any sense for what her scholarly potential could be until she met you. She began to blossom with you. Your classroom is a place of rigor and excellence, but it’s also a place that is safe and friendly and kind. You, and the extraordinary teachers that came before and after you, have turned my child into a scholar.
In High School, she took off. Her ability to reason and to find intersection points between bodies of knowledge that open up new windows of insights have challenged how I understand the world. She can string together a series of words — everyday words — and turn them into something that can take your breath away. She demands independent thinking, analysis, substantiation, reasoning, context, proof. Her expectations challenge you to elevate the caliber of contributions you make to discourse. Again and again she’s challenged me in this way.
You have been absolutely instrumental in helping my child achieve this growth. Your standards are those that she now holds herself accountable to. It was your excellence that inspired her to truly find hers.
Your patience, and your humility, and your desire to understand different perspectives helped her grasp how critically important all of those things are in scholarly work, and in life. She wants to understand the opposing view. She will coax and encourage and demand until she gets it. She will examine and question and debate until she understands it. She has learned all of these things from you as well.
She was not this person when she stepped into your classroom for the first time. But in your care, and under your tutelage, she has become stronger than I ever imagined she could be.
The journey to get her there was not easy. The pressure to perform was intense. Stress was very high. It took a great toll. I worried whether this high stakes dynamic would snuff out her love of learning.
And there you were again. You helped her learn how to manage all these things as well. She never stopped working hard for you. Your class had the rigor and the highest level of expectations she found in other classes. But with you, she drank up everything you taught her with this thirst. With you, she never lost the joy and pleasure and discovery of learning.
I’ve met you in person just a couple of times. Really, we barely know each other. If we encountered each other on the street, we likely wouldn’t even recognize one another.
And yet you’ve made such an important and enduring and positive impact on this person that I love so much in this world.
You are exemplary. Yet society does not appropriately recognize or compensate you for the contributions that you make.
How does a mother thank a person who has been so important to shaping their child? How can I convey the appropriate level of gratitude for all that you have done?
My child is so well prepared for what is ahead. The gifts you have given her will pay dividends for her lifetime.
I have so much to thank you for. Truly, I don’t know how.
I just know that as my girl becomes a young adult, I can see glimpses of the scholar and the citizen that she will become. And in her reflection, I can see her teachers. In that reflection, I can see you as well.
With profound gratitude,