I’d like to share the letter with you in the hope that you will have the courage to share it, modify it, or simply think about the responsibility we have as teachers to educate our students.
First, I stink at goodbyes; I’m much better at “see ya laters,” so in the spirit of temporary separation, this is my official “See ya later” letter of 2018.
Thank you doesn’t come close to expressing my appreciation for the way you’ve supported our class this year! You’ve sent in needed supplies, purchased novels, volunteered to assemble toys, and showered me with generous gifts of appreciation. It’s been a joy to partner with you this year to build champions who are ready to take on 8th grade!
Educating young people doesn’t only happen in classrooms; it happens on sports fields; it happens on car rides; it happens in churches, it happens around the dinner table, and while watching TV. To educate is “to intentionally commit to give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to someone.” Education is often a slow process; it’s often more like a crock pot than a microwave. There are no “10 easy steps to raising a happy, healthy teenager!” In fact, “easy” and “raising teenagers” shouldn’t be found in the same sentence! This work is hard, but it’s so worth it! Thank you for allowing me to partner with you to educate your child this year.
Education happens every day, but what exactly are our kids learning, and who is teaching them? I feel compelled to share some unsolicited advice with you, and you’re welcome to disregard it, but I think it may encourage someone to find the strength to hang on when it’s so tempting to let go.
Parents, please do everything you can to protect your child from voices that will potentially destroy his/her spirit, self-esteem, and character. It’s okay to err on the side of caution. Social media, if used at all in middle school, should be monitored closely and used in moderation with clearly defined and enforced expectations. Children are different, and no one knows your child better than you do. Trust yourself. If you have a bad feeling about something, trust your instincts. Teachers see kids at school engaging with their peers without their parents to supervise and monitor their language and behavior. There are times when kids do and say things that would shock and surprise us, but the students who have the confidence to walk away, say no, and stand up to pressure almost always have “mean parents” who aren’t afraid to be in their child’s business and involved in their child’s life.
Admittedly, I’m “old” now. Have you heard I’m a grandmother? Life has been good to me, and I want your child to experience the best life possible. One way to make sure this happens is for you to be courageous enough to set limits and high expectations for your child. I know it’s hard, especially when it seems you’re standing alone. Stay mindful of the big picture. Your child’s temporary “wrath” or discomfort is a small price to pay for keeping him/her from a potentially dangerous situation.
Our class motto is “Your decisions shape your future.” There is no room to make excuses and place blame. The world is full of people who justify, rationalize, and excuse their own poor choices. Our kids deserve adults in their lives who love them enough to sacrifice their temporary happiness for long term success.
As a 25 year veteran teacher and the parent of a current high school student, a recent high school graduate and two college graduates, please allow me to encourage you to take full advantage of moments to speak into your child’s life. The competition for a seat at the table of your child’s future is intense. Your seat needs to be the closest. Your voice needs to be the loudest. Your influence matters the most. Please don’t delegate or relinquish the responsibility and privilege of raising your child.
Sadly, I see many parents step back and allow their children to become the driving force in their home. Disrespect at home translates to disrespect at school, in sports, and in public. It’s not cool, and while it may be a way for kids to earn “popularity,” it’s not a way for kids to build a foundation of character and integrity. Do not respond to demands. Insist on “please” and “thank you.” Explicitly teach your child that when someone goes out of his/her way, to notice and be grateful. Just this week, a teacher purchased doughnuts out of her own money as a special treat for her class. Imagine the buzzkill for this teacher when an thoughtless student remarked, “Gee, the least you could’ve done is gotten us some milk to go with these doughnuts.” No “thank you.” No gratitude. No way that child is going to experience the level of success he could if he would express gratitude and empathy for the feelings of others.
If I could go back to raising my children through the middle school years, I’d make it a priority in the busy, daily chaos, to spend time every single day in eye-to-eye conversation with each of my children with no distractions, even if only for five minutes before bed. Middle school kids need a safe place to escape the challenges and brutality of a harsh world. Your undivided attention assures them that regardless of what their world tells them, they are loved; they are precious, and they have a responsibility to contribute something positive to the world. They are gifted, and you are there to help them discover and strengthen their gifts no matter what the test score or report card says. Your voice must be the loudest, the most honest, and one of very few voices that truly matters. Telling your child you love him/her is never a bad idea.
Thank you for allowing me to walk a portion of your child’s journey by his/her side. I’m a better teacher and person for having done so. Forgive me for overstepping my teacher boundaries, but I love your child, and sometimes love is worth the risk.
Amy serves on Knox County’s PD Redesign Team and the Superintendent’s Transition Team. She has been a Tennessee SCORE fellow and recipient of the 2016 PTSA Tennessee Teacher of the Year. As a 23-year “veteran” classroom teacher, Amy has taught at the preschool, elementary and middle school levels and is currently teaching 7th grade English-Language Arts in Knoxville, Tennessee. She’s a graduate of Carson Newman University. She’s also the founder of Reach Them to Teach Them, an organization committed to appreciating, inspiring and challenging teachers to maximize their influence in student lives. Amy has a passion for using her time and talent to leave the world better than she found it! She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.