Monday, June 15, 2009

Dear Former Teachers, I Turned Out Okay

Quite often, I find myself trying to imagine who my current students will become as they grow up. It's difficult to see past the roles they play in my room – the spaz, the loner, the jock (I'll stop there before the copyright infringement letters from The Breakfast Club start appearing in my mailbox), and that can be disheartening at times. I want my kids to grow up and lead happy and successful lives, but it's just not realistic to assume that will be the case for all of them. It's uncharacteristically pessimistic of me to think this way, but it's reality.

Reflecting on my students made me reflect on myself at that age. I know the role that the 13-year-old me played was a bit sketchy at times. What portrait of the future did my younger self paint to my former teachers? Probably not a very promising one.

Last week I tracked down three of my 8th grade teachers, and sent them an email. I felt it was important that they know I survived college, found a good job, and started a family. It means a lot to me that they know their troubles didn't go without notice.

Here's how I started my letter:

My name is John Mikulski, and I was your 8th grade student in the 94-95 school year.

Like many 13-year-old boys, I was awkward, irritating, and definitely a bit smelly on warm days. I remember crying at the dinner table over homework, and I remember having no clue how to impress the guys while looking cool in front of the girls. 8th grade was a difficult year for me, but for some reason, it stands out as a defining time in my life.

I found writing my letter, and reading the two responses I received to be truly rewarding. I encourage everyone to contact a former teacher and do the same. Tell them you turned out ok. That you're happy. But most importantly, that you are all these things in small part because of them.
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3 Responses:

siobhan said...

I have been trying to track down one of my old teachers for some time now, and your post renewed my motivation - I just fired off a couple of emails in a new attempt to find him. Thanks for the inspiration!

Karen said...

This is an especially nice thing to do around Thanksgiving time.

Damian said...

I've written letters to some former teachers in the last few years (as I outlined here), but I have yet to receive a response. It's nice that you received two!