For All The Elementary School Teachers I Never Got To Thank
Thank you for the markers and the puppets and for your big heart and your patience. Kindergarten teachers don’t ever get as much thanks as they deserve because their students never realize the impact they made on them until much later in life. At 22, I feel this impact in my playful spirit and my hunger for books and in all the ways in which I try to nurture people like you nurtured all of us.
Thank you for filling in for whatever first grade teacher of ours got pregnant and couldn’t continue with the fall semester. Thank you for staying, for hanging leaves and vines from the ceiling, for encouraging us to conjure up worlds of paper and imagination. Thank you for being sweet and for still asking my mother about me whenever you see her around town.
Thank you for being so mean to all of us. Thank you for turning over the desk for breaking pencils for calling Ryan stupid for telling me I couldn’t use the restroom and being surprised when I peed my pants in front of the entire class. You showed me exactly the kind of person and teacher I would never want to be and for that I am extremely grateful.
Thank you for being the first teacher I’d had who didn’t wear long denim skirts to school every day. Thank you for being hip and young and talking about dreams that existed outside of my hometown. Thank you for the trip to Taco Bueno when teachers could still do things like that with their students and thank you for teaching me my times tables. Thank you for letting me retake a spelling test during recess without telling anybody else about the way I’d missed almost all of the words and thank you for knowing when to laugh and knowing when to work and never letting the line between these two things blur.
Thank you for turning our small portable of a classroom into a wonderland. Thank you for your subtle humor and for your love of Charlotte’s Web. Thank you for making me fall in love with it too and thank you for spinning words and stories of air and leaving them to catch and stick to the impressionable minds of your ragamuffin fourth graders. Thank you for teaching me that being loud does not mean that you’re strong and that sometimes the best thing to do in a crisis is to take a moment to breathe and walk away from the situation.
Thank you for showing me that just because someone’s old doesn’t mean they can’t relate to young people. Thank you for always keeping a light on in your classroom and thank you for letting me stay in for recess and help you with maintaining the library when I didn’t have any friends to play with. Thank you for letting me bring in and show Singin’ in the Rain during testing week in the spring and thank you for singing along with me when all of the other kids thought it was stupid. Thank you for never letting me believe that it was stupid.
Thank you for the fistfuls of unpredictability. You taught me how to live out loud, how to grab color out of the nooks and crannies of even the most seemingly eggshell white room. Thank you for the beautifully honest way you talked to all of us about 9/11 and thank you for trusting us to think and talk about big things. Thank you for letting me create an elaborate diary of all the people who lived in the ancient world of Siberiatanica for my final project instead of doing an actual research project about Siberia and thank you for making this little weird giraffe of a fifth grader feel safe in your classroom. Thank you for being the first person to tell me that I should be a writer—it’s a struggle, but when the going gets tough, I think of you and keep moving forward because I know that you wouldn’t have it any other way.
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5. To you, your little brother is always going to be your little brother.
I still tear up way more than I ever have, and am learning to accept that as a part of me. I’m trying to embrace tears as a visceral human reaction to life, not as a sign of weakness or cause for embarrassment.
“Sorry, but we don’t have a larger size than that.”
You are never going to be the most popular girl in high school, but that’s okay, because the friends you’ve made will be of better quality than any of the ones you wanted to be friends with.