Last week Texas was attempting to recover from the Snowpocalypse, so our district gave us Monday off and a virtual teacher planning day Tuesday before kids returned Wednesday. A fellow Houstonian asked our Teach Write community for recommendations on activities to ease back in to the school week. The “What I Wish My Teacher Knew” writing opportunity (thanks, Donnetta!) was among the excellent suggestions and, while I had heard of this before, my own students have never written to this prompt.
I assigned this as a journal late last week, and as you can imagine, the responses ranged quite a bit. I anticipated receiving letters about power still being out and/or water not working. Since I gave examples during our Zoom meeting, I also thought I would read about how much students are struggling during virtual learning, how they need me to understand their schedules include working to help out family, how sincerely unmotivated they are to do anything.
All of those responses were submitted in one way or another, but guess what else happened that took me by surprise? Some of the babies (okay, 10th graders, LOL) fed my soul with their affirmations:
To start off I wish my teacher knew how her class and wonderful teaching skills keep me motivated in school. With the pandemic and the winter storm, my love for writing has been slowly ripping away, but with the help of my teacher it has started to interest me more. I wish my teacher knew she was awesome and really is making a change in my life.
How many times since August have I lamented what an awful teacher I’ve been because…what even is this year? Our schedule currently requires hybrid students A-L attend Monday and Tuesday while the rest of the alphabet attends Thursday and Friday; all students are virtual on Wednesday. In class, I’ve had five students at most; on Zoom, it ranges from one student to ten students on a rare, but great day. It can often be incredibly defeating to “teach” to three blank screens and one student physically in class. And yet…
I want you to know that you are one of the best teachers I ever had in my life. I want you to know that you are a hype teacher. Every day you are excited to see us and talk to us.
This kiddo has no idea just how exciting it is to see students attending and willing to engage. And then there was also magic like…
I also want to say that I really love reading and your class. Your class is one of the very few classes in which I take my headphones off because I really enjoy English. I might not seem like it, but I love reading. I wish I could go to the library and choose books because they help me feel and imagine how a good world would look like.
When, oh, when can we open the library again?! Also, can I celebrate that N223 has the ability to compel a Gen Zer to remove his headphones?!
I assigned this thinking I’d mostly read letters that would lead me to reply notes of encouragement. It turned out to have the opposite effect. It reminded me that our presence matters. Our attitude matters. Our sincere joy at engaging matters. I am COVID-life exhausted. I am COVID-life, pregnant-life exhausted. But I’m going to keep showing up because it matters.