|A photo of me and my friend Jenna in 6th grade|
hanging in the lobby with us in front
this past summer
Every year, our school has an “Annual Theme”. Classes try to incorporate this broad theme into their curriculums and we bring a lot of speakers to campus who are experts in the field. This year, our theme was Transforming Education. We had speakers such as Jonathan Kozol, Bill Strickland, and Andre Perry. I was part of the group who put on the programs. We met every week to discuss our speakers and different topics in education. Discussions were usually about alternative forms of education and trying to keep students interested in learning. We talked a lot about the different roles individuals play in education: students, teachers, parents, and the community. Things got heated as the passionate educators in the room shared their experiences and strong beliefs. As our final project, we have to write a letter to a former teacher who has influenced us greatly. We are supposed apply what we learned this year to our teacher’s methodology, style, and pedagogy.
I was always taught that the speed in which you learn does not matter, but the quality of education. My mom pulled me out of school when I was forced to read at an early age because she believed in me and my ability to learn at my own pace. After learning about multiple learning disorders, I realize now that I am lucky and my mom took a leap of faith. I always thought that once I started going to school I would be forced to memorize facts and regurgitate at a pace too rapid for me to sincerely learn the information. You flipped this ideology on its head when I entered 7th grade.
At the time I did not realize what an impact you had on my educational experience. You fostered a community of safety, which led to open discussions, trust in each other, and a belief in learning for the fun of it. All of your students felt comfortable to talk to you but respected you. I am learning that this is almost an impossible feat. Intimidation seems synonymous with respect, but you made it possible for us to be your friend but also greatly respect you as an educator.
There are three specific moments I remember. Eight years later, these moments have impacted me greatly.
- In 8th grade you gave us a quiz on “how to find things”. You emphasized the need for finding information, not necessarily memorizing information. There were questions such as “where would you find a map of the world”. Although I don’t remember all of the answers to the questions, the message has stuck with me. Even if I cannot remember everything, I know how to find the information. This is extremely important because it is not possible for me to remember small facts-but I do know how to use our library’s resources.
- The printing press project was a perfect way to show the culture of the time. I remember that was the most effort I put into a project so far in a school setting. We had to redo the project multiple times and I still remember how much work I put in but how much satisfaction I got out of it. It taught me that hard work will pay off. Every time I have a project, I think about the time and effort I put into it. The grade is not as important to me as the educational satisfaction it gives me to complete an educational experience.
- Martha’s Vineyard taught me the educational value of fun. Everything on that trip was fun (besides the fight and the water plant talk-two hours of things I do not remember). I distinctly remember racing with our advisor group around the park. I had so much fun and I was in awe that you allowed us to run around and have fun, even on a school trip. This was a needed release from discussions and journal entries. Fun is essential to the educational experience.
I know these seem like obscure, random things. I guess this is the lesson I took away from this semester and my educational experience thus far. The little things count. A small smile or activity can change how students perceive their teachers for the rest of their lives. Since you were my teacher, advisor, and mentor, I’ve had faith in my educators. I knew that they were trying their best. You also inspired me to become an educator myself. I will remember the impact you had on me and the necessity to care about the little things and the memories my students will make.
Thank you for being such an inspiration to me and all the students you come in contact with.