Dear Teacher

As you prepare to go back to school in a little over a week, I want you to take one thing with you:  thank you.

So, the intro is a little rambling, but it leads somewhere.  Last night, my family played Singo at Crafter’s Brew, and one of the songs on my sheet (which never got played, though the title was there) was Oye Como Va.  Naturally, this is the song stuck in my head this morning, even though I haven’t actually heard the song in years.   I’m a little amazed that I still remember what that means without even thinking, since I haven’t really had the opportunity to really use the Spanish I learned in jr. high and high school for decades.

Thank you, Kathleen Alexander, for taking a moment to encourage me.  In 9th grade Spanish, you asked if Spanish was spoken in my home.  I said no — none of my family speaks anything but English.  You then said you thought they did, because my accent was so authentic.  That compliment has stayed with me for 40 years, and encouraged me to try harder.  Your encouragement for me to apply for an exchange program profoundly changed my life.

I wasn’t the best student, but I still remember teachers who took a moment to praise my work.  I was always surprised to hear it, because I was driven pretty hard at home and “you can do better” was what I expected to hear.  Mrs. Irwin at Linden praised my spelling and reading, so I tried even harder.   Mrs. Kidd at Robertsville complimented my writing, so I wrote more.

My senior year of high school, I already had enough English credits to graduate, so I took Creative Writing just because I thought it sounded interesting.  Ruth Cates Baird took me aside after the first week and told me I didn’t belong in that class, and suggested that I sign up for college English at Roane State.  It was too late to enroll, so she simply told me that she would give me different assignments and grade me as a college professor would.  Ms. Baird, I finished off my first quarter Freshman English at UT (Creative Writing) with a 100% average, thanks to you.

There are many more; if I tried to list them all, I would inevitably wake up in the middle of the night with the terrible realization that I’d forgotten someone.

The takeaway is this: any small praise for a student’s work, particularly the student who isn’t always at the top of the class, may very well stick with them and motivate them to try harder.  Thank you for all that you do, with too many requirements, too much paperwork, too little pay and too little praise for your accomplishments.  I hope this year is an excellent year.