Last week I received two letters in two days, both from former students. Both are female. One is 20, a newlywed, and stepmother to a five year old...all while working and going to school. The other is 30, an artist, and expecting their third child in a month. I post these letters so I can remember. I need to remember these on the days that are mostly cheerless and without validation or compliment of any kind. Not all days are cheerless, but I worry SO much about the progress of my little flock.
You were one of the most influential people to me as a kid and the lessons you taught have stuck with me ever since. You were one of the people and encouraged me to write, you were part of this story, and I got an A in this class for this paper. Thank you for everything, I’m so blessed to know you!
The Power of Words
When I was eleven years old I sat in the back of my fifth grade classroom with a pencil
and paper and I’d write. I’d write all day. Stories and ideas and poems and anything interesting
that popped into my head. I’d write because my grandma had told me that words were powerful
and the more I used my words the more powerful I’d be. My grandma was the smartest, kindest,
loveliest lady I’d ever met and she encouraged me to write, so I would. One day my grandma
passed away and my world was shattered. So I’d sit in the back of class with a pencil and paper
and write. I wrote stories and ideas and poems and anything interesting that popped into my
head. My teacher, who once loved to read what I was writing, began to worry. My stories and
poems and ideas were no longer happy and joyful, but had turned dark and sorrowful. I felt as if
the words in my head were only coming out in the form of the pain I felt from the loss of my
hero. My teacher pulled me aside one day and she asked why I loved to write. I told her my
grandma had said it would make me powerful; I could express whatever I felt through my
writing. My teacher then told me that she believed in me and the words she had read throughout
the last year had in fact, been powerful, and she wanted me to keep writing; but she wanted me
to write on the good days, the bad days, and the days in between. She told me not to only dwell
on the ugly, negative words going through my head, but to also find the positive, beautiful ones.
So with that I went to the back of the classroom and with my pencil and paper and I wrote.
Hi Jody! (It's weird for me to call you that because you are forever Miss Fassett in my memory, ha ha.)
I've thought of you recently, about how kind you were to me. You were patient and never made me feel stupid when I would get behind in school. Perhaps you knew there were a lot of stressful things going on at home that were out of my control...perhaps you didn't. Anyway, I will forever feel grateful for that compassion you showed me. You also helped send me to the BYU Young Writer's Conference for a poem I wrote and that was one of the best experiences I ever had in elementary school. It was dreamy to go spend the day there. Did I already tell you about that? Whether I did or didn't, thank you! Also, I loved the pen-pal program you put together between our class and another class in Japan. That was so fun! I kept in touch with my pen-pal, Keiko Tsukada, for about 2 years beyond your class, and then I lost her contact info during one of my family's moves. It was so fun while it lasted. Sometimes I wonder if you still know the teacher of the class we wrote and if she would still be in contact with her former student Keiko. It would be fun to reconnect, but I also realize that is a loooong shot. :)
You had a very positive impact on my life when I was in your class.
I think I remember that play we did...was it Follow the Drinking Gourd? Maybe I'm thinking of a different one than you. It's funny the things we hold onto and remember, and how our memory of something can vary so much from someone else's about the same memory, right?
I totally went to Clear Creek! That was a fun and (in hindsight, beautifully) awkward coming-of-age experience for me; I'm so glad I got to go. Yeah, I most definitely think my mom couldn't afford it at the time. I had no idea you had a hand in helping me go until I learned about it and it made me emotional. Thank you immensely for your kindness. That means the world to me!
Are you still teaching fifth grade?!! If so, where do you teach? Your students are lucky to have you!!!
Please make no doubt about the fact that you DEFINITELY made a difference in my life, and I'm grateful and happy to have been in your class. Genuinely.
I hope I can be a great teacher tomorrow! Every day is a new chance to get better.
18 hours ago