One of the things I loved best about teaching was knowing that I touched the lives of children, that I meant something important to some of them. After teaching for such a long time, I have had the enormous joy of hearing from former students who have grown up and who still remember our time together.
What I don’t think people realize, though, is just how deeply the kids impact and change the lives of their teachers. Good teachers care about their classes. We love our students. We laugh with them, grow with them, argue with them and hug them when one of us is sad.
That love and those memories stay with us at least as much as with the kids. Maybe even more.
And I know that this is a very improper thing to say, but some kids just stay with you more than others do.
For me, the kids who will always stay in my heart are the ones who struggled. Some struggled with learning disabilities. Some with hearing loss and language disorders. Some kids fought battles with depression and anxiety that made school a constant challenge. Some worked harder than any child should work just to keep their emotions and behaviors under control.
Many of my students became my heroes. Their willingness to grab their backpacks and come back day after day to the place of their greatest struggles was a constant inspiration to me. I knew kids who felt friendless and alone. But they still showed up, every single day, to try again.
I knew kids who expected perfection from themselves. When math came to them without effort, but writing felt beyond their abilities, I watched them swallow hard, blink back tears, and finish that story.
Those kids stay in my heart. They stay in my memory. I call on their example when I feel overwhelmed and unsure of myself.
Most of those kids have grown up and gone, and I can only remember them with fondness. With the miracle of social media, though, some of them have reached out and told me about their lives today. A few are friends who I get to see once in a while.
And some of them are gone. For some, the pressures of life were too much, and they chose to step away. They are still, every one of them, my heroes.
Some have been lost to accidents or to illness. For some the lifelong health struggles have finally come to an end.
They are still my heroes.
Dear parents of kids with extra needs and concerns, dear moms and dads of spirited kids and challenging kids and kids who push the teacher hard,
Please know that your kids are the kids who kept some of us coming in every day. Your kid was the one who made us throw up our fists and shout “Yes!!!!” when they finally finished that book report. Yours is the one who made us sneak into the bathroom to cry when he asked another kid to sit with him and was accepted. Your child is the one who made us think, “If she can keep going, so can I.”
Thank you, kids. Thank you, parents who trusted me with your kids.
You will all be a part of me for the rest of my life.