She wrote, thank you for treating me like a human. In an email, my student sincerely expressed her gratefulness for being treated like a human being. Wow! I simply told her she didn’t have to take her final exam a week after her brother had been shot. But what in the world were her other teachers doing and saying? Why did I stand out as the compassionate one?
Here is a snippet from an email this student wrote (sans editing):
“I am Just writting you this email to Tell you that I am very thankful for you being my teacher this school year and I hope the best for you through out your many more years of teaching bright and young teenagers. Of course it will be tough and hard to handle but you always have to think "These are not just my students, but my Childern when they step into my class. I add something more to their life then just a book of knowledge. I help them accept who they are and "TRY" push them to work for more then they want to".
"Thank You", I really mean this. With out you I don't know how I could of survived with going to class on a normal basis. Their was plenty of times my mom offered me to get home schooled from earlier this year but I resisted because I had something to look forward too on A-day and B-days and that was you. You have this smile that always let me know that you were there for everyone not just by teaching but by ensuring that we left your class each day with Knowledge from a book and about our selves. I appreciate you more then you could ever know. I am not only a student Im a human and you treated me like both and more. I hope to keep in touch and check on you and see how you are. May be Things will get better for me through out the years but right know I just look at things like " bad things happen know to show me that good things will come later". I have hope and I believe in GOD so i know through him anything is possible. I know I will become everything I've dreamed of. One day on your door step youll recieve a box full of roses and an invitation to my highschool graduation and college gradutaion. Yes, I'll think of you. Because you Thought of me.”
Her message was and will always be the box of roses for me. I never felt like I did enough in the way of connecting. But apparently, it was simply by doing what came naturally that I connected with at least this one student. My first year of teaching I focused on getting my students to think critically, enjoy literature and write clearly in preparation for the high school assessment test and eventually college. Slowly, I’ve moved toward being me more, being more natural, connecting more. I’ve come to accept that for some students, it’s about me reaching them with my words, my hand, my presence. I’m learning that part of my teaching is through the tangible, immediate aspects of humanity: telling a student she does not have to take a final when her brother just died, giving a sympathy card and a journal to a student whose parent just died, giving small gifts to students who are expecting their first child, listening to a student talk about an alcoholic parent. It is not always about the text, it should always be about connecting, touching, taking care of, loving, teaching humanity through being human.