It’s been three days since my first semester as a middle school teacher ended. I’m still a bit overwhelmed.
Not by the amount of work it took to get missed test and homework made up and grades in. Not by the zany pre-holiday behavior of the 160 or so 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds if my Spanish classes.
No. I’m blown away by the cards and notes of gratitude many of my students took the time to write at the busiest time of the year.
At a faculty meeting the week before winter break, I asked the veteran teachers I sat with what they liked receiving the most from students at holiday time.
All emphasized that they did not expect anything. Our kids, after all, connect with six or more adults at the school when you count coaches, counselors and others who interact with students and getting something for everyone would be too much for many families.
But I teach in school attended by middle- to upper-middle class kids and, at the start of the year, a couple of teachers had whispered to me “wait until your mailbox is stuffed with gift cards at holiday time.”
So I pulled out my newspaper interviewing skills and pressed them a bit. The men confessed to liking liked things like amazon.com gift cards and the women said that for anything from bath and beauty stores was considered a windfall. Starbucks gift cards were welcomed by everyone.
But no one mentioned what I found to be the best part of pre-holiday week: Cards from students. Maybe they are just taken for granted by experienced teachers who receive kind messages about their work year after year.
But the notes of gratitude certainly surprised me. Especially after a semester of tough evaluation comments from school administrators and negative e-mails from parents about subjects ranging from the way I grade to my classroom management style.
— Thank you for teaching me Spanish!
— We will be requesting you next year!
— You have been such a big help!
— You make Spanish fun!
— I am happy to have you as a teacher!
Several even put the traditional Spanish upside down exclamation marks in for emphasis.
In an age when people have cut back on cards even to friends and relatives, I was surprised and, as I said to before, overwhelmed. I took every single note home and read them again as I unwound from the week.
When teachers write about why they love their work, they use words like “meaningful” and describe the joy they feel when they see “the light go on” in kids eyes. I get that.
But I rarely hear teachers say how teaching a subject you love to appreciative students is just plain fun.
I will enjoy having a couple of weeks off. But I also can’t wait to start the next semester.
Happy holidays, everyone!