‘I hope you’ll take time to get to know their strengths and weaknesses. That will make it so much easier for me to let them go.’: K-5 teacher urges middle school teachers, ‘Your students will always be OUR students.’

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“It was the beginning of the school year and I was thinking of you. We were all getting settled in a new routine, but I was already worrying about the next school year.

See, I have 5th graders who I’ve known and taught since they were teeny kindergartners. While I see how much they grow every year, the last year I have them is when I notice it the most. How quickly they’ve gone from tiny round-faced kindergartners who loved to hold my hand to confident, long-legged 5th graders, some who are taller than me. When this school year started, I realized how soon they will be moving on to middle school.

That’s when I started to wonder about you, their middle school teacher. I’ve taught middle school students before, but I didn’t often think about the teachers who came before me.

The 6th grader who confidently wrote essays, did she have an elementary teacher who encouraged her to feel that freedom with her pencil? The 8th grader who was always eager to speak his mind, was there a teacher who told him how much his opinion mattered?

So, I wonder: do you think about the teachers who have paved the way before you? There were teachers who hugged these children tightly, gave an endless supply of pencils, told them to never give up, and taught them to tie their shoes.

Honestly, I don’t care if you think about me. What I really worry about is what you will think of my students. I know how easy it is to make a first impression and how hard it can be to dig below that. Some of my students, I fell in love with right away. Others, it took a little more time.

Will you give them that time?

Student A, for example. Hopefully, you’ll give him a few weeks before you decide what he’s like. He’s very good at rolling his eyes and sighing heavily — it’s quite an art form! He’ll work hard at first to disrupt your class and test your boundaries. However, if you work hard to keep a reliable routine, you’ll soon see his creativity and sweetness underneath his facade. You’ll learn to predict his outbursts. They always come when there is a change in the routine. Give him some space and PICK YOUR BATTLES! (Trust me, it took me a few years to figure that out.) Be consistent, and sure enough, he may sidle up to you and give you a calm, casual hug when you least expect it.

I think you’ll fall in love with Student B, but it may take some time. She is so desperate for attention, she will do anything (good or bad) to get it. This trait of hers keeps me up at night sometimes. She could be your biggest hindrance or your biggest helper. If you give her positive attention and classroom jobs on day one, she will immediately flourish. Stay on top of her work, and be very honest with her when she’s not doing her best. I hope you’ll discover her favorite rewards are not pencils or free homework, but the time spent with you.

What will you think of Student C? I hope your opinion of him won’t be solely based on his file. His reading level is frighteningly low and his memory issues prevent most academic skills from sticking with him. Yet, while I stress every day about his classwork, I am confident about the incredible person he will become. While his academic levels are that of a first-grader, his capacity for love and kindness surpasses what most adults have. Do you know that any bug (even the tiniest ant) he finds in school, he will carefully pick it up and release it outside? Do you know when he found out I don’t have children, he brought me a plant on Mother’s Day so I ‘wouldn’t feel left out’? I expect you’ll learn from him as much as he’ll learn from you.

There are so many more things I wonder and worry about. Will you be the one to ignite their love for reading or math? Will you encourage them to never give up? Will you remind them to show confidence in what they know, and humility in what they have yet to learn? Will you show them generosity, so they can show it to others?

I know middle school is a very different world than elementary. You have so many students and countless responsibilities. You don’t want to coddle your new students. Your job is to push them and get them to be independent learners. I hope you’ll treat them with love and kindness, and take some time to get to know their strengths and weaknesses. That will make it so much easier for me to let them go.

You’ll be so lucky to have my students, and they’ll be lucky to have you. When you struggle with them (middle schoolers are tough!), maybe it will help if you think of all the teachers who loved them for years.

If you need help, I’ll be here. Your students will always be our students, together.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Medrano. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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