This post (letter?) was written on December 11.
Dear Mrs. Joiner,
It’s funny how sometimes the most random moments stay with you. One such moment I’ve spoken to you about before—it was in your 9th grade English class. An impressionable little freshman (can it be that almost a decade has passed?), I remember that I liked your style. And I remember being so intrigued by your energy and enthusiasm.
I can’t say with certainly whether it was I or another student, but someone commented on these qualities of yours. It is your reply that has stayed with me throughout the years. You said something to the effect that you expected the best from your students, so shouldn’t we expect nothing less of you in return?
I have frequently thought of your words in the various contexts—work, school, or otherwise—that I have found myself in since, some near and some quite far from Vanguard High School in little Ocala, FL. Did you ever imagine that this admirable ethic of yours would continue to impact me 8 years later and 8,000 miles away?
I tell ya, this teaching thing can be tough. There are times when I just want to yell quite loudly at little 5th graders to stay in their seats, or even to throw chalk at them. Sometimes, with my 8th graders, I want to give up trying to make them stop talking, instead letting them continue and taking a nap at my desk, figuring that they probably wouldn’t notice, anyway.
But then, I remember your words. I smile as big as I possibly can and, fighting the desire to yell, speak a little more sweetly. I summon a little more patience from who knows where and proceed with my lesson. Sometimes, I think the children are amazed at my reaction to what they know is bad behavior. But you know, there’s some sense in the whole give-what-you-hope-to-get philosophy. It’s really kind of Ghandi, be-the-change-you-wish-to-see -esque, when you think about it.
I wish I could say that it always works. But even when it doesn’t, there’s more than adequate consolation in knowing that even when dealing with little hellians, I did the best I could. In fact, I’ve got a small piece of paper taped by my bedroom door, right at eye-level so that I always see it as I walk out; it says, ‘are you giving your best?’
Of course, there are days when that little paper totally mocks me; days when I know I probably didn’t give my best. The really rewarding days, though, are when I can return to my room, see that small paper out of the corner of my eye, and with much satisfaction, think, “yes—I really did.”
So thanks for your wisdom, even all these years later :)
“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.” -William Arthur Ward