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The Real Thanks

I've taught ninth- and tenth-grade English for the past three years. With the exception of a few students that I've had for credit recovery, this is the first time that I have had a large amount of graduating seniors. Watching them last night at prom, made me realize how privileged I am as a teacher to get to see young men and women grow and mature over four years.

Per the advice from my field instructor in college, I keep a "bad day folder" in my desk at work. I've placed thank-you cards and small notes in there over the past few years, and I have turned to it every now and then, especially on those days that lessons just seem to fall flat. I've come to realize this past week that sometimes our lessons don't take at that moment, but students listen more than we think.

I received a few letters from graduating seniors this week with these messages in them:

"Thanks for introducing me to John Green. I've read every single one of his books."

"Even though I didn't have you for that long, you always pushed me to make my best better."

I can't ask for a better reward than knowing that I've helped create readers and have helped students see more of their potential. I remember the frustration I felt in class when it just seemed like neither got it. I remember the stacks of books that I would set on his desk, and I remember the countless talks I had with the other student, asking her my go-to question when it comes to student work: "Is this something you are proud of?"

As I've seen former students cry in the halls, I've kept my cool this past week until a parent approached me during prom. We were talking about her son's plans after high school because I hadn't had the chance to see him in a while. That's the one down side about having students in the earlier grades: it's difficult for you and them to make time to chat about post-high school plans. In the middle of discussing his college plans, she teared up, turned to me, and thanked me for "getting him through a hard time."

It's at this point that I teared up with her. I had forgotten the conversations I'd had with her son after school. Sometimes it's the smallest, simplest conversations that turn into lessons and change students' lives. It made my night that he and his parents hadn't. Even more so, I know he's heading into the world more level-headed and ready for the challenges ahead.

This is why I do what I do, and this is why I love what I do.

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