As my school year ends, I sat down to write an end of the year letter to my students and their families. Here is what I ended up with:
To my students and your families,
Over spring break this year, my family and I drove to South Carolina to spend the week at the beach. Each day we headed down to the water and each day I found myself wandering with Millie along the sandy beach. One of her favorite discoveries was that when a big wave came in, the water would rush up to meet us where we were walking, and as the water began to pull away we saw so many beautiful treasures that the water left behind. As the water retreated, what we saw left behind was incredible. Seashells, rocks, tiny animals, jellyfish. The truth is: When the water is gone, so much beauty will remain.
As our school year quickly begins to slip away from us, I find myself thinking of these moments rather often. These moments on the beach were not unlike the moments that we have spent together during your fifth grade year. And as the year comes to a close, I find myself thinking about the things that will be left behind when the wave of your 5th grade year begins to recede. I think about what I hope will be left behind with you after our year together and I think about what I know you will have left behind with me.
So here are the things that I hope will be left behind with you, in your hearts and in your heads, as you leave our year together and head out into the bigger world of 6th grade. I hope you will be left with:
The knowledge that being who you are, exactly as you are, will always be enough.
The belief that you have incredible things to give to this world and you do not have to wait until you are older to begin giving them.
The knowledge that reading can make you feel as if you are a part of something bigger than yourself and that it can also help you to understand the world outside of just yourself and your own life.
The knowledge that writing gives you power and that you can learn how to be a better writer every single day by continuing to read the words of others and then you can use that power of writing in order to demand change for the better in this world.
The understanding that every human being, including you, has a story to share with the world and that if we are brave enough to share our own stories and listen, really listen, to the stories of others then we can start to make the world a better place.
The belief that we all have a responsibility to learn about the problems that exist in this world and not to hide from them.
The knowledge that you all, starting right now, have the power to work towards changing the problems that exist in this world.
The belief that goodness and kindness and empathy will take you much farther in this world than a good test score ever will.
The understanding that there are people in this world who are not treated fairly or equally and that speaking up for the rights of others is one of the greatest things that anyone in this world can do.
The belief that good reading and good writing will never look just one way, no matter what anyone tries to tell you.
The feeling of being loved and accepted for exactly who you are.
These are the things that I hope our year together has left behind with you. And as for me, please know that you all are leaving so many things behind with me as well. Remember, like the water, when you are gone, so much beauty will remain. As you walk away from Meadowbrook, here are the things that you are leaving behind with me:
Hope for this world. Because when I listen to you talk and when I watch you all work, I truly believe that our world is in better hands.
The understanding that what I think kids need is not always what you really need and that the best way to figure that all out is simply to ask you.
The belief that I need to listen first before I begin talking, especially to my students.
The knowledge that the greatest learning happens when I get out of the way and allow you to explore this world and create things to share with others.
The truth that laughter is an important part of any classroom community.
The belief that children have the ability to be way more open minded and loving and accepting than many adults in this world and that you are all capable of so many more things that we sometimes realize.
Those are the things that will stay with me, close to my heart, as you all begin your journey away from Meadowbrook and off to the junior high. This year you have taught me, you have made me laugh, you have amazed me and you have inspired me. For all that you have given me, I thank you. And now, I will share you all with the rest of this world and I know that you will all do incredible things.