A Love Letter To Teaching

At the end of the day, there were always hugs for anyone who wanted them. There were also high-fives, air kisses, and winks.

Dear Fourth-Grade Students and Families,

I’m writing to tell you that I miss you. That I think we could have shared something special. That maybe no one else would have cared for you in quite the way I would have. I’m not trying to tell you I was the best, or that I was perfect. No one is. Perfect is boring. Perfect means there’s no opportunity for learning or improvement. Instead, I was a “do-your-best” type of teacher. I may not have remembered how to spell “chihuahua” or “vacuum,” I may never have learned how to whistle, and I may never have mastered throwing a spiral during our football unit in P.E., but I would have tried. I would have given it, would have given you, all I’ve got each day. And I expected the same in return even though I didn’t always get it.

I won’t have the chance to greet your class on the yard with my standard “Morning Loves.” It’s not the way most teachers start their day, but over the course of my 12-year teaching career, I developed my own way of doing things. Once we got to our classroom, I would have taken attendance while you completed your morning journal. But instead of simply calling your name and waiting for you to reply “here,” I would have wished you a good morning by name.

When it came time to take out our anthology and begin our reading, I would have written the page number inside a heart I drew on our whiteboard. You can talk to my previous students; they’d tell you about my hearts. During tests, the hearts got bigger; they covered up most of the board, because I would send you so much love.

I won’t be bringing in my electric grill and making you quesadillas on Cinco de Mayo. We won’t shut the blinds, turn off the lights, and read our “scary” stories by flashlight on Halloween morning. We won’t be able to celebrate Read Across America Day by coming to school in our pajamas and reading all morning; reading out loud, reading independently, reading with our second-grade reading buddies. We won’t read a little bit of James and the Giant Peach every day after lunch. We won’t enjoy peach-themed snacks (peach iced tea, peach pie, peach gummy rings) while watching the DVD to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the two versions of the story.

It wouldn’t be all fun though. My kids from previous years could tell you about the monthly projects I assigned. They’d complain about their daily spelling homework, and the fact that I required them to alphabetize their spelling words and write the list in cursive. They’d tell you about the three tests each Friday morning—a spelling test, a vocabulary test, and a comprehension test.

But they’d also tell you about the “Brain Food” I kept stashed in the closet. Snacks I passed out for big tests or during particularly challenging lessons, like fractions and long division, for example. They’d tell you I didn’t let kids use the word “hate” in our class, but you’d hear a lot of “love” in my class. They’d tell you I spoke a lot about my son (Ryan’s 9 now), but if they told me about their families, their pets, their hobbies, and their passions, I’d remember them. And I would have spoken about them also.

My kids would also tell you about our marble jars and Ding-Ding sheets. When you filled up your Ding-Ding sheet, we would have eaten lunch together. I would have brought the dessert (usually cookies). And you would have had no homework that night.

I was proud to do things differently. One year I took my class outside to draw the different types of triangles we were learning about in math. I felt my class needed some hands-on practice making these triangles, so we went out onto the playground, and using big, fat sidewalk chalk, they drew all these different types of triangles.

Another day, we sat outside by a big shady tree while we read about photosynthesis. We made green goo when we learned about the states of matter, and saw how it changes so quickly between the solid and liquid state.

At the end of the day, there were always hugs for anyone who wanted them. There were also high-fives, air kisses, and winks.

I would have given you a treat bag at Halloween and another at Valentine’s Day. Mostly filled with pencils, highlighters, erasers, maybe a candy or two. I would have given you a new book as a winter holiday gift and another at the end of the year. And in June, I would have celebrated each of you with a custom certificate. As a teacher, I knew that not all kids are fast readers or strong spellers or quick mathematicians. But as a teacher, I also knew that all kids have something worth acknowledging—neat penmanship, the good habit of always picking up litter, complete homework each and every day.

What I mostly want you to know is that I would have loved you. I would have tried to make you see that if you keep working, that you can do it—whatever “it” you’re dreaming of.

I can’t do these things any more, because my health doesn’t allow it. But for 12 years, I did. And I miss it.

I miss you.


Mrs. Kennar

Wendy Kennar is a mother, former elementary school teacher, and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in several publications and anthologies, both in print and online including the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, MomsLA.comMamalode.com, and Parent.co among others. You can read more from Wendy at www.wendykennar.com.

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