With such a vigorous recent focus on teacher recruitment and retention, and having just celebrated a week of teacher appreciation throughout the country, I find a thank-you note I just received to be particularly poignant. I had the honor of mentoring 12 education majors from Purdue University this semester. They attended my events, did research for me, and shared the victories and challenges of student teaching. Through those many months of growing our relationship, I found myself falling in love with them. Their passion, enthusiasm, transparency, knowledge and hope have been a brilliant balance for me during this ridiculously bizarre time in my own life where the number of speeches I've done since August far outweighs the number of breakfasts I've had or the number of iced coffees I've gulped down to stay energized.
We gathered this past week to celebrate. We celebrated their successful completion of student teaching. We celebrated their upcoming graduation. We celebrated the bond we cultivated that will hopefully keep us linked for decades to come. I can't wait to hear where these young educators will go and what a difference they will make... A lifetime of celebrations to come!
Then they gave me a poem they had collectively written, plus the thank-you note I referenced above. I'm sharing that thank-you note below. It is more like a pledge, really. Teachers, imagine this pledge being spoken or written by any new teacher you know, or any preservice teacher you have met in a college near you, or any young person in your world who has voiced an interest in the mission field called education. Or instead, imagine it being spoken by the new teacher or college student or young person you have not yet met but who needs you in order to keep going. Your words, our words, they are responsible for so much, perhaps the very vitality and subsistence of our profession. Speak them well and often, for this is how those words are heard by those following in our footsteps:
You put us on the pedestal in front of policymakers and politicians. In the same way, we will show our students how much they matter, more than the bells and whistles, more than the esteem, more than any award. As a humble guide, we will lead them as you have led us.
We promise to laugh when it is time to laugh and cry when it is time to cry. We will show our students it is safe to be human with us.
We promise we won't take shortcuts if it sacrifices student potential. We will show our students that every mile is worthwhile.
We promise, we didn't simply fall into teaching. We are meant for this.
We promise to lead our students without leashes. We will lead by example, modeling how to be human, how to learn, how to teach, how to be humble, how to succeed, how to fail, how to trust, and how to believe. Our actions will match our words, our promises will be kept, and our lessons will impact the lives of students for generations to come.
You created a line of legacy-makers. Thank you from all of us.
Thank you Amanda, Kaitlyn, Tessa, Brandey, Mike, Morgan, Alex, Dan, Hannah, Kristin, Amanda, Tyler, and all the unnamed educators to come. We pledge our loyalty to this profession and to you.