While I have not directed a middle school play in almost ten years, I still keep these letters in a pile in a drawer of my desk. Close by.
In writing an essay for something else today, I shuffled through that pile and pulled the piece I always look for when I open that drawer.
It remains my favorite piece ever given to me by a middle school student. It means more than any raise or accolade ever could, because I did not have to do anything for it except be myself and lead kids.
It is the perfect reminder that we are not teaching numbers, words, or elements. Sometimes we may forget and think we are teaching books and formulas. That isn't true. We are teaching young people. We are teaching young people to love _____________.
You fill in the blank.
Whether all stakeholders in education realize this or not, young people change when they are with us, even if we can't see it. They are changing every day. And whether you simply smile or frown; say hello or pretend you do not see them; or ask about their grandmother or fuss with something else on your desk, it all matters. We can be the significant fragment of their change.
Just as it is not about who we are but who and what we can become, so it is also true that being a teacher is not about who they may be today...but who and what they can become.