Like Mr. Jones, great teachers are passionately committed to the most important subject – their students. They understand that students enter a classroom sharing a basic need to feel safe, to learn, to matter.
One evening, while sorting through papers, de-cluttering and discarding, I found folded in four between a hand-made card and a letter of recommendation from my first principal, a letter from a former student. I am ashamed to say I do not remember the woman who took the time to explain in writing her decision to withdraw from my Introduction to World Literature class, nor do I recall how I received her letter. Had she turned it in with an assignment? I don't know. I don't even know her full name. It appears that in her effort to explain herself on just one side of the note-book paper, she had to tightly position in the bottom right hand corner her signature - diminutive and different from the great loops of flowing cursive that had preceded it. A first name, 'Carol,' but a surname that remains a mystery. By some strange twist that can only happen in real life, perhaps Carol will stumble upon this blog and find the letter she wrote thirteen years ago, then and forever a tribute to teaching:
Dear Ms. W.
I wanted to write you a note to tell you how very much I have enjoyed your class. You are a delight and a terrific teacher. We have just learned that my mom has cancer, and it is in the brain, lung, and bones. We don't have much time, and I need every minute I have to be with her. I remember you saying that your mom is your best friend - it is the same with me - and I hardly know how I can get through life without her.
I wanted you to know also, that because her eyesight has been going - and she has always been an avid reader (and all the zillions of stories she read to us . . . do you know of the poem, "You may have riches and gold - but I had a mother that read to me . . . "?) She has been so frustrated not being able to read - so I have been reading to her - I read her "My Oedipus Complex," and oh, how we giggled - I told her that I wish she could have heard you read it, with that slight, but wonderful Irish accent! So I was especially glad to have O'Connor's other story - "First Confession" that you handed out. We call them his "little boy stories" - and it has brought her smiles. The Oedipus Complex was especially wonderful, because my father was a pilot in the Army, and was in Korea and WWII so - she with 3 boys (and 2 girls) could certain relate to 'Daddy' coming home and the competition for her attention. Isn't it strange - I bet you don't think about the ways you touch other lives - but you have added something beautiful to ours, when we most needed it. I will in time retake this course - so I will be looking for YOUR class.
"Please read the letter that I wrote . . .":