An Overdue Teacher Thank You

If you had the chance to jump on a bandwagon full of people working to mitigate all of the negativity in the world (and especially the news), would you jump on it?

I would.

I did.

I joined UNFUCD UNFUCDand feel better already. Visit our site, take a look around, and sign up if it makes you smile just to think about being part of a group that wants to “raise better people, be better people, and expect more of those around us.”

Assignment Number One: Teacher Appreciation

The first assignment (they’re optional!) is to write a note of thanks to a teacher. We were encouraged to hand-write these. Mine is a bit long, so it is not hand-written, but because I value snail mail so much, I am sending the hard copy to the teacher I’m thanking along with some Big Green Pen swag!

My Note to Carol Kelley

(Note: Carol Kelley was my teacher in eleventh and twelfth grade, for several classes including business, accounting, and (gasp!) shorthand.)

Teacher Appreciation

July 30, 2016

Dear Mrs. Kelley,

I am participating in a project whose goal is creating happiness one day at a time (in order to counteract all the negativity in the world).

Today, I have been given a specific mission by that project: write a note of thanks to a teacher.

You and I had a conversation the weekend of Mary Nell’s funeral when I told you I had something I’ve always wanted to thank you for that had occurred when you taught me.

The particular day I am writing about was only one day among many days that I was your student. This could turn into a long letter if I elaborated on the many ways I learned from you, and why I hold you in such high regard.

But the day I am writing about now was a day which had to be one of the most difficult days we faced together in 1982, my senior year. It was the day we had all learned that our classmate, Debbie Hales, had passed away unexpectedly, and we were all shell-shocked. I can only imagine what it was like for you as a teacher to personally process the loss of a student while trying to provide support to a classroom full of her classmates who were also stunned into disbelief.

As we all sat there in class, obviously unable to focus on the topic (I think it was accounting but don’t recall for sure), you said, “Let’s go to the science fair.” (The science fair was underway that day, and all of the projects were on display.)

Of course we had as little interest in the science fair that day as we did in balance sheets, BUT your choice did several things:

  • It got us moving. No amount of “exercise endorphins” were really going to cut through our shock and grief, but the act of getting our blood and oxygen flowing was better than sitting, mute and powerless to change the tragedy that had just occurred.
  • Besides getting our bodies moving, it got our minds distracted and put us in a new setting, one where we did not have to look at Debbie’s empty desk.
  • It acknowledged that there are times in our lives where we have to trust our instincts in order to lead effectively and make a choice that is guided by no rule book or set of procedures.

We were in the Business/Accounting track because we wanted to have useful skills for eventual employment.

What we got that day was an example of a useful skill for life management and being sensitive to those around us.

More than 30 years later, I still think of that day OFTEN.

The way you handled our classmate’s death certainly did not bring her back or make us feel “better,” but it acknowledged the gravity of the day while exemplifying how to lead in a way that has influenced me at times when I have had to help a child, friend, or co-worker handle tragic news.

School is about so much more than facts in our heads, and I appreciate how you taught us “heart lessons” in addition to the ones directed toward our heads.

Sincerely,

Paula Rucker Kiger

Do YOU Need or Want to Thank a Teacher?

Although I wrote to a “traditional” teacher, one of the things I love about this assignment is how it encourages us to think about people who have been our teachers in other ways, about forms of teaching such as:

  • A mentor at work
  • A family member with life lessons
  • A colleague
  • A peer

If some one has made a difference for you by taking on the role of “teacher,” why not drop them a note?

Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation

8 thoughts on “An Overdue Teacher Thank You

  1. What an awesome letter for your teacher, Paula – thank you! I can’t begin to imagine what the feelings were running through that classroom, but Mrs. Kelley clearly knew what to do. Glad she was there for your class, and helped you become the person you are today.

    • I’m very excited about the project! For the short term, I’m excited because it prompted me to do this letter that has been languishing between my ears and needed to make the transition to my keyboard. But for the long term, the world sure can use more positive! 🙂

    • Probably not! In general, our lives in that classroom were orderly and pretty calm overall. That day challenged everything we had ever known about how to be students and teacher.

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