When I graduated high school, I wrote letters to certain teachers who had impacted my life. At the time, I was genuinely surprised by their warm, emotional responses; I was just one of hundreds of kids they'd taught -- how much could my view of them really have mattered?
Today I received a beautiful, disarmingly honest, heartfelt two-page letter from a graduating senior, and as I read it through tear-clouded eyes, I felt each word being seared permanently into my heart and stored securely in my memory.
His view of me, though only one of many, matters so truly that it is life affirming.
As an educator and, specifically, as a writing teacher, it is my highest goal to instill the belief in each of my students that their voices, their words, their ideas make an impact. My best teachers worked to instill the same belief in me, and though by their nature they had always made me feel significant and important, that, I figured, was just part of their job. It wasn't until I became a teacher that I truly took the lesson; it has been my students who have succeeded in helping me reach the conclusion that my teachers always pushed me towards -- each of us matters more profoundly than we can ever fully grasp.
Each time I find myself lamenting the hatred and selfishness and apathy and cruelty of which humans are capable, each time I wonder whether I'm making a difference, the words my students have written to me -- and the kindness, honesty, openness, and love it took to write them -- will remind me that what I do matters, that I matter.
To all of my teachers who truly "saw" me, thank you for paving my way into this indescribably complex and fulfilling career, and for being the role models I needed. I know how to do this because you showed me.
And most importantly, to all of my students: each one of you matters not only to me (and you matter to me more than you know), but to the world. You have no idea where and how your actions leave permanent marks. Thank you for leaving your marks on my life, and for allowing me to be a part of yours.