This morning as I was going through the (admittedly boring) class expectations, a young man interrupted me.
He said, “I got your card, Miss.” and then everyone started looking around and saying, “She sent me a card, too.” “Yeah, me, too.” (and so on).
The young man continued, “It meant a lot to me, that you’d think about me over break. I didn’t do anything. I just sat in my room and played video games. I thought that would be a lot of fun, but it really wasn’t. I was really bored! But I did think about you and wondered how you were doing.”
I was kind of stunned; the rest of the class was listening to this young man very intently. I saw a few nods out of my periphery.
You see, this particular young man had a particularly rough transition into high school last year. He and I worked very hard together so that he could be successful in some of his classes. He’d always thanked me and told me I was a “cool teacher,” but nothing like this and nothing this public.
Several in class broke the mood a little by shouting out that “I’m sorry, Miss, but I didn’t think of you at all!”
I laughed. I told them I was touched. I shared that it meant a lot to me that my cards meant something to them. That I do think about them a lot, wonder how they’re doing, and hope that they’re OK.
I then said something stupid: “Wow, usually I get choked up about stuff like this…”
Then I paused, tried to change the subject, and …. got real choked up. Class froze for a minute as I wiped tears from my eyes. No one got up, no one said anything to me, but as I joked about crying in class on the first day, everyone just kind of smiled and nodded quietly. It felt like a big, fat, group hug.
It was definitely the greatest moment of the day, but it is also one of the top greatest moments of my teaching career.
I’m sharing this with you because moments like these prove that it’s the little things that really count, in teaching and in life. Writing those cards cost me very little compared with the reward I experienced with the fifteen people that showed up in my class on the first day. I sent over a hundred cards, so I feel confident that they had similar effect on those kids, too.
It doesn’t take much to build relationships, they just need to know that you’re being real, and that you are personally invested in them. And yes, a handwritten note can help you accomplish this.
I’m also sharing this because, let’s be real, tomorrow or next week, or next month, these same kids will piss me off about something I need to let go of and I’ll need a tangible reminder of what this is really about!