I’m sitting here trying to discover a way to tell 60 amazing, inspiring, and infuriating individuals how they have touched me and changed me and pushed me over the last 5 weeks. How can I convey to you the gravity of the impact you have had on me? We have shared intimate moments together that neither of us even knew were happening. There were times in sessions when I was overjoyed by your presence, comments, insights and feedback. Times when I was disappointed and frustrated, but never did I forget that these teachers, you all, could someday have my students. Within the last 5 weeks I have seen some of the nation’s best of the best laid low by 7, 8, and 10 year olds. They, students with less with a quarter of our age, taught us humility. They taught us the enormity of our decision to become teachers. They taught us that no matter what we do on a daily basis they will ALWAYS amaze us. That the power we seek to give them already lies within them and all we need do is open the gates and walk within it. We have the ability to empower them to seek the dreams they never knew were within them. We can be the light bearers illuminating a path of opportunity that never knew existed
Over the last 5 weeks we have learned and grown exponentially together. We learned to plan, write key points, ask checks for understanding, manage behavior, and so many more technical aspects to this wonderful profession. Together we also learned about the necessity and complexity of talking about diversity from Jay Smooth and the real need to “clean ourselves daily.” We learned from Dyan Watson that the hopes and dreams of the parents of our children matter. We learned to reflect and adjust and then to reflect and adjust all over again. We learned from Lisa Delpit that the culture outside our classroom door affects what we do inside our classroom on the daily. We learned the reality that our collective mindsets and situations affect who we are and what we bring to our students. In these last 5 weeks we have gone on a journey of self-discovery as teachers, as individuals, and as a collective movement.
Within your regions I push to continue this process of self-discovery and reflection. I push you to find the truth and hope of both yourselves and your students. It is not enough that we now give a part of ourselves to this movement. It is of the upmost importance that we now realize that only through togetherness can we be one.
Within the next two years there will be times that you cry, times that you laugh, and times that you want to quit. I want you to remember always that you made a conscious decision to teach the youth of America. You chose this profession. You chose to teach. With that decision comes great power; power to mold minds, to shift attitudes, and to light fires. This decision also comes with great responsibility. You now have the responsibility to care for the education of 20 to 50 to even 150 students for 180 days. You have them for one whole year of their lives which is for us a greater proportion of their life than they are truly able to quantify or grasp. We shape them. We mold them. It is our responsibility to do that with purpose. Education, it was once said, is not the filling of buckets, but the lighting of fires. Bring your passion every single day. Bring your joy. Make learning fun. Give them what you never had. Be for them the teacher you wish had been in your life. Ask them about their dreams and give them the tools to seek them. Above all else be true to yourself, be true to your students. Always seek to grow, to be more, and to do more. I leave you now with my hopes and dreams for each and every one of you entrenched in my own teaching. You are now a part of my story and I will never forget that. Remember always that, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”