Before having a child of my own, I was an elementary school science teacher. I took great pride in my profession. I was opening young minds to the mysterious world of science, creating wondrous explorers and question askers. I was shaping the future, one child at a time. In retrospect, however, I don't think I really understood the true value of a teacher until I became a mother.
My choice to step away from the classroom after the birth of my son was a very conscientious one. It was a true gift to spend the first three years of my son's life by his side -- an overwhelmingly exhausting, joy-filled gift. When the time came for preschool applications, I realized that being an educator and a stay-at-home mom in the most competitive cities in the country made my standards for preschools ridiculously high. Somehow, I managed to find a school that met my very high standards. Before I knew it, I was filling out immunization forms, buying backpacks, and packing lunches. Before I knew it, he was letting go of my hand and holding on to the hand of another.
Before I knew it, I was realizing the true value of a teacher. My newfound epiphany manifested itself in the form of a letter to my child's first teacher.
A very special little boy -- the apple of my eye, the one who brings me more joy than I ever thought possible -- will leave my care and saunter into your classroom today. Please don't mind my tear-stained face, raspy voice, and clenched fists held close to my chest. You see, dear teacher, my heart is filled to brim with emotion on this momentous day.
I assure you, this letter is not filled with requests. I will not ask you to love my child, to care for him, and treat him like your own. I will not ask you to understand his uniqueness and appreciate his strengths. I will not ask you to guide him, challenge him, or encourage his independence.
No. I will not ask you to do any of those things.
You are a teacher. You have not chosen a profession, you have chosen a way of being. You have undergone years of training, taken on a small mortgage in student debt, and chosen the most thankless of jobs -- simply to feed your passion. You see great value in your work. You have chosen the challenging path of transforming lives and shaping our future. That, in itself, drives you day-in and day-out.
Each day, you choose to love. You know the importance of a warm, secure environment for a young child, and you hold nothing back. Your love and support gives my child wings to explore and experience the new world that surrounds him. But, this gift comes at a price. I see the exhaustion on your face at the end of the day. You are psychologically, physically, and emotionally worn from the day's work. But, you will undoubtedly return the next day. You will greet each child at the door with your kind eyes and warm smile. That is because you, dear teacher, are a warrior.
As each child walks through the door, you see the incredible beauty in their individuality. You appreciate their uniqueness without an inkling of judgment. You know the fate of the human race lies in our ability to appreciate and understand of each other's differences, and you embody this in everything that you do. You work relentlessly to build a community of empathetic, compassionate, and accepting individuals who will grow to be courteous, kind, and loving.
I see you carefully observing the children as they explore the classroom you have so thoughtfully prepared. You evaluate whether their individual needs are being met, and you let the children guide your teaching. You strive to pique each child's interests, fostering the cultivation of a life-long learner. That small spark of curiosity you have so carefully ignited will grow. It will grow into an incredible wildfire that will fuel the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers.
And, so, dear teacher, this letter is not filled with requests. I will not ask you to love, appreciate, and guide my child because I know you will do all of these things and then some.
This letter is filled with overwhelming gratitude. Thank you for loving my child, for caring for him, and treating him like your own. Thank you for understanding his quirks and appreciating his uniqueness. Thank you for understanding his needs, being his guide as explores the world around him, and encouraging his curiosity. Thank you for doing all that you do each and every day. Thank you for being his teacher.
With love and gratitude,