As a former classroom teacher, I know first-hand the incredible honor and privilege it is to shape the hearts and minds of students. There are few professions that rival the selflessness of teaching. Each day, they walk into their classrooms with one purpose in mind – to serve their students.
Sadly, a teacher’s effectiveness is often measured by test scores, percentages, and letter grades. In fact, some states are suggesting that teachers receive merit pay, based solely on the academic success of their students.
What often takes a back seat to the obsessive, laser focus on academic rigor and standardization are the countless hearts that are being transformed in the classroom every day. While scores are meticulously analyzed and new mandates are passed to meet various academic needs, the core of the child, their emotional well-being, may be flourishing.
In the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week, I wrote the following poem in an effort to address the heart transformation I speak of.
I walked into your classroom, my heart a bit weary. I didn’t know what to expect, so my demeanor was reserved and I was somewhat leery.
Your first day welcome was gracious; with open arms and a radiant smile. I cautiously took my seat, however, choosing to remain guarded for a little while.
You spoke with such passion and showed a commitment to your art. Over time, your contagious energy was gradually chipping away at my guarded heart.
Each time I walked into your class, you met me with a handshake and asked me about my day, or the previous night. Your genuine interest in me as a person, not just a student, was always a welcome sight.
My grades eventually slipped as life’s challenges made it increasingly difficult to cope. Your steadfast belief in me was the one constant; you never allowed me to lose hope.
While peer pressure mounted and my self-confidence crept lower by the hour, it was you who reminded me of my inherent gifts and beauty, encouraging me to always keep my power.
As testing season approached, my doubts and fears began anew. It was you who always calmed my worries by simply saying, “This test will never define you.”
I always remained thankful for the subject matter you taught, but I knew my academic growth was much less important than the person you helped me become. Because of you, my heart had grown wings. A heart that only months earlier was absolutely numb.
Now the year is coming to an end and I’m flooded with mixed emotions, unsure of what to say. I know my future is ahead of me, but I want to take you with me along the way.
There are so many things I’d like to share, as a means of expressing my sincere gratitude for what you’ve done for me. If I wrote them all down on paper, I’d fill a page, or two, or three.
As I leave your classroom with optimism, armed with a renewed confidence in who I can be, I want you to remember just one thing about the impact you’ve had on me.
The hours of instruction were great; you clearly filled my mind with lots of information. The part I’ll cherish the most, however, is my heart transformation.
You see, what you taught me will eventually lose its appeal. What will never change, however, is the way you always made me feel.
Your thankful student
P.S. I invite you to share this with any teacher your know.