Now that I no longer teach primary, I am not the recipient of daily notes declaring love and proclamations that I am the best teacher ever (since the last one and before the next one at least). Sometimes, I find messages on the whiteboard and I had some lovely holiday and Valentine notes that were incredibly heartfelt and kind. But the little two to five word notes with hearts and flowers and hilarious drawings of me, those don’t happen anymore. It was never the “I love you” or “You are nice” or “You teach good” letters that sustained me. It’s the daily interactions and the relationships that grow over time that mean so much, so I have been okay without my almost daily dose of To Ms. Gelson messages.
Little did I know that when you teach older grades, the letters might not come as often, but when they do, oh my. Prepare to be done in. Prepare to have your heart squeezed and stretched all at once. Prepare to be awed.
These elevated love notes are love notes still, but they hold creative energies and more developed expressions of voice that are wonderfully unexpected. Gifts. Treasures. Everything on a page.
One of my students – the lovely Breaunna gifted me with a piece of writing yesterday that I haven’t recovered from yet. I am so full of gratitude and emotion and so absolutely honoured that I haven’t been sure how to express it all. I will do what I think makes the most sense – try to respond in kind.
Breaunna wrote a letter for me as me. It showed me she has been paying attention. It revealed that she listens to everything. It told me that what has mattered to me, also matters to her. This letter was completely unexpected. It wasn’t an assignment. I didn’t know it was coming. Breaunna went home and wrote it just because. A true gift. I received this yesterday and get teary every time I even glance at it.
I share it here *
Hey, I’m Ms. Gelson. My real name is Carrie but you can call me Ms. Gelson. That’s what my students call me. I’m a teacher at __________ __________Elementary. I have a set of twins – a boy and a girl. F and B – they are my world. I love them so much. I also love my students. I teach a Grade 4/5 class with beautiful and intelligent learners – like I always say a student is a teacher and a teacher is a learner. I love my students. There’s the quiet kids – those kids are (she provides a list of names) Then there’s the loud kids – these are the kind of kids that think it’s funny to say “poop” etc. (another list) There’s the kids that sometimes have bad days (another list). So this is my life. I have some hard times where I need to go up and down the stairs and use colourful language. LOL. Sometimes I have to send some kids outside. But I wouldn’t have another life.
This letter tells me that my love and respect for my students are felt. Just this means everything. It shows me that Breaunna listens for the human vulnerable sides of me. When the counsellor led a session about what we did when we were upset, Breaunna heard my answers. (Don’t worry, my colourful language stays in my head when I am at work!) She recognizes that we are a diverse group and that we all matter in our community.
This wasn’t all. She also shared with me a two page (that grew to four pages over the day) story she started working on and gave me another paper torn from her notebook titled: Why Ms. Gelson is the best teacher.
I love being in Ms. Gelson’s class and I love Ms. Gelson. 1st thing I like about Ms. Gelson is her voice. It’s soft and gentle. 2nd thing I love about Ms. Gelson is how she loves books. She’s a book worm. Last thing I love about Ms. Gelson is her. She’s amazing. I don’t want to leave her class next year.
So yes, this kid absolutely knocked me over yesterday. I am not quite sure how I got so unbelievably lucky.
This Breaunna is for you – to show you that I see you too.
Hey – I’m Breaunna but lots of times people also call me Bre. I am in a Grade 4 and 5 class at ____________ Elementary school. I usually like school but sometimes it’s tiring. I especially love to write and read and do art. I am a writer. There are stories in me. The writer in me is growing as I read and listen to stories. Some days, I don’t want to do anything else but write. There are so many words I need to get on the page. I also love to read. Sometimes there are boring parts in books but I know I have to read those parts to get to the good parts. When my teacher reads to us, I listen so carefully. I often have questions. I am really good at putting things together. I have lots to say in my classroom. My head is full of questions and connections and stories. Sometimes I worry that I do not understand new things. But I am learning to pause and breathe and trust that I just don’t get it yet. Soon, I will. It’s like when I do my art. There is a time where I think it’s terrible and then all of a sudden as I work on it, it becomes something beautiful that I am really proud of. The kids in my classroom are all different. Some of them are annoying sometimes. I notice people. I don’t like to see someone sad. I give lots of compliments when people do things that are great. Being part of a classroom community means something to me. School isn’t always perfect but I am learning more and more all the time. My days are actually pretty great.
*Please note that Breaunna gave me permission to share her letter and her name here. I checked in with her Mom who also gave permission.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.