Dear “That Kid,”
When I first saw you placed on my class roster, my heart skipped a beat. And in that moment, I couldn’t breathe. My face turned white, and all I could hear was ringing in my ears. Please forgive me for the way I reacted. In my heart, I knew you were on my roster for a reason. We were made for each other.
Before the school year started, I didn’t get the chance shake your tiny hand at “Meet the Teacher Night.” I didn’t get a chance to give you all the things you would need for the first day. I just left your papers on the desk alongside your new supplies in hopes that the office would call for them before the first day of school started.
You walked in on the first day of school, and I noticed you weren’t wearing brand new clothes like some of the other kids. You had a stained hand-me-down t-shirt and jeans that looked like capris. I could tell they were too tight by the way they fit. I hope I didn’t embarrass you when I quietly sent you to the nurse for a new pair of pants. I just know that in order to learn, you have to be comfortable.
Sometimes when I would walk through the children’s clothing aisle at Target, I would look at clothes that you might like. I had to restrain myself from purchasing clothes for you. I just didn’t want to upset your parents by making them feel bad for not being able to buy you new clothes. I always wanted to ask if they needed help, but they wore their pride on their sleeve.
You had problems with many of the other students at the beginning of the year. You almost made me lose it a few times. I shed a tear the day you were able to tell another student how you felt in your heart, but you didn’t notice because I wiped it away really fast. I was so grateful because you figured out a way to discuss problems constructively and respectfully. I hope you continue to be a wonderful problem-solver next year. I hope your teacher encourages you to use your words in a kind tone.
I know you didn’t care about homework at the beginning of the year, but I noticed the day you started to care. I saw you in the cafeteria at breakfast copying from one of your peers homework pages. You didn’t know this, but I accepted it anyway because it wasn’t about getting that homework page done. I wish you could have seen your face when you showed it to me. I am glad I saw you that morning. Thank you for allowing me and the other students in our class the opportunity to help you on your homework in the morning.
I saw you eyeing my bookcase at the beginning of the year. I saw you discreetly choose books you were able to read at “Read-to-Self” so none of the other kids would notice you were not at their level. Thank you for being honest with yourself and choosing books that would help you to be a better reader. Thank you for returning each and every one of my books safely to the bookshelf each morning, and reminding yourself that you need to grab another one before leaving each day. Your self-discipline is going to take you so far in life.
I hope your parents are trying the best they can. You tell me you don’t want to go home when school is about to end. Sometimes I wonder what you do and how you are treated when you get home. When I go home at night, I think about what you might be doing. I hope you are reading and spending time with your family, but I know deep down that is probably not happening. I can’t help but think you spend your nights alone, playing with your toys by yourself. Sometimes I envision you playing “make believe” and you are in a different situation where you are treated differently.
Well, child, keep playing “make-believe.” Keep taking care your dolls, and continue caring for them them in the way you want to be cared for. Practice the compassion and love you get from school and don’t ever forget how that feels. Continue to apply what you learn in school, and continue to ask questions and wonder. My hope is that one day, when you can make decisions for yourself, you will fly. Someday, you will have a chance to help others. I hope you will be transparent and brave enough to tell your others your story, and encourage them to be the best they can be.
When you feel like the world is on your shoulders, remember the values you have learned from our classroom and school. Remember you are never alone, and education and books will take you anywhere you choose. Remember the important lessons you were able to apply to your life from your favorite read-alouds. Remember those heroes from the many storybooks we read together. Don’t forget the qualities those characters possess. Continue to get lost in those books and never let anybody take away your sense of wonder and imagination.
But most importantly, don’t forget that you are such an important individual and you matter. It still astonishes me how much you have evolved into the wonderful student you have come to be this year. Don’t pay attention to anybody that tells you you any differently. Surround yourself with positivity, and good people. Live your best life and never let a day slip by without expressing gratitude.
Thank you for letting me in. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for making me a better teacher.
If you could say anything to “That Kid” what would it be? Be sure to leave a comment. I would LOVE to hear from you!