Each year I write a letter to my seniors and give it to them on the last day of classes. I have done it since my first year of teaching. And I keep doing it, year after year, but this was the first year I questioned why. It’s been a long year for me, and for reasons not worth going into, I just didn’t feel I had it in me. I was exhausted, drained, and I didn’t think my kids would get much out of it. So last week, I sighed and declared to myself I wasn’t going to write one.
But even though I was firm in my declaration, I felt unsettled.
And I realized: I don’t write the letter for them. I write the letter in honor of my own high school English teacher who handed me a letter at graduation, a letter I still have today. It was thinking of him in my first year that inspired me to write that initial letter. And each year since, now understand it is my way to pay homage to him.
So at the last minute, I decided to write one. It says the same thing I always say: learn stuff, because the world is ah-maaaahzing, and if you can see the world through curious eyes it becomes so potent and energizing. Because of the lateness of the decision to write it (which also involves printing it out for each student with their name on it, stapling and signing them, adding something they filled out on the first day of my class, and throwing in two personalized business cards with different things on them… all in an envelope), I had to crib some of my favorite language from last year’s letter. And although I tend to have the same general message each year, this year I realized I was hinting at something new: there is something really sacred about knowledge, and throwing away opportunities to learn stuff is a choice you make… so go to college with your eyes on the prize.
I wasn’t going to post my senior letter this year, because I just felt it was rushed, I don’t think I got my points across well, and about 1/3 of it was cribbed from last year’s letter. I don’t know how writers do it! But today, a senior who I have great respect for, who I have come to know fairly well throughout his years at school, told me with such earnestness that he really appreciated the letter, and that he felt like there was something about articulating the passion of learning that his teachers felt that really was powerful for him.
I feel awesome that one kid sincerely took something away from me writing it. And that is enough for me.