Dear R, (Student Letter #9)

To help me be more critical and mindful of the bonds I’m forging in and out of the classroom, I write anonymous letters to some of my current and former students. This is the ninth post in the series.

Dear R,

Hey. Long time, no talk. Kidding, of course — I just saw you yesterday, but it was fitting I write you. As one of the first students I developed a genuine connection with this year, you have been a delight to have in class. Your humble, unassuming nature was refreshing from the start. I remember that during the first week of school you had your head down and I pulled up next to you and asked if everything was alright. You assured me that you were fine, just tired. It was our first real interaction.

One day, a week or two after, you showed up late to class. I was standing outside the door. I’m not sure why, but I held up my arm in the doorway, not letting you pass, and asked you for the “password.” I wasn’t going to let you into the classroom until you figured it out. You guessed three or four times before you got it correct. We laughed. It was so random and fun that, although you arrived on time, I asked you for another password the next day. And the next. And the next. Our funny, made-up “passwords” soon developed into a quirky daily routine that was a needed high note for me just before our class began. Crazily enough, on days that I wasn’t at the door, you began holding yourself accountable to the password and not walking in until I walked over and confirmed that your password was correct. Hilarious.

As I write this, I’m also left appreciating your Friday Letters. They’ve been heartwarming. I’m not sure why you decided to write one out of the blue, but I’m glad you did. You even started numbering your letters, which was unique. Through them, I enjoyed reading about your indecisiveness, struggles with AP Euro, and trip to DR. I wish I could have seen your 80 year-old grandmother’s face during her not-so-surprise birthday party that you and your family threw her. How fun.

This is why, this week, given all my excitement around teaching you and getting to know you, hearing about your transfer was so defeating for me. From your letters, I knew you and your mom were considering it, but if it was going to happen, I didn’t think it would happen so fast. I thought it would have taken a few more weeks, at least. But after I made a light-hearted reference to something next week, you told me that you wouldn’t be here for it. I asked why. You said Friday (yesterday) would be your last day. Your transfer went through. The last day of the marking period was going to be your last day as my student.

The moment was sudden and far heavier than I would have expected. Shocked, I forgot about whatever it was we were discussing. The joy left my face. The news saddened the rest of my day and woefully disrupted what has been a wonderful school year. I was dumbfounded and frustrated.

After months of heartache teaching students I never saw, this wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to experience sincere teacher-student connection like ours and then have it ripped away from me after only six weeks. I paid my dues to remote learning. I’ve earned my right to bond with my students again. This all feels so wrong. Somewhere, the spirit of remote learning is laughing at me.

(Sidenote: It’s interesting how I have begun thinking about and referring to remote learning as if it’s a living thing that was here for while and then moved on. I find a strange comfort in this.)

In time, my distress over you transferring will pass, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll forget you. I won’t. You gave me the gift of renewal and revealed the beauty in new beginnings. In the wake of emptiness and counterfeit classrooms, you offered up kindness and connection. Without trying, you were my first proof that the humanity in teaching and learning has indeed returned. Truth is, you were the sign that I was longing for. You let me know that it’s OK to lean in again. Thank you.

I wish you the absolute best at your new school and beyond. Please stay in touch.


Will miss you and our passwords,
Mr. P


P.S. Thanks again for the tortoise. Ironically enough, it’s one of my favorite animals. How fitting. It’ll rest on my desk for a long time and remind me of you and the rebirth of my teaching this year.

P.P.S. I’m so glad I could give you the Token of Appreciation. I was waiting a long time to find the right person — and you were it. Appreciate you, R.

2 thoughts on “Dear R, (Student Letter #9)”

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