You opened your door. Opened your arms to me. Smiled as I walked in with my over-stuffed bag and spilled out notebooks and planners and post-its and colored pens all over your desk. You accepted the mess that I was—nervous, anxious, self-conscious, unsure—and you loved me because you saw what I could be when I couldn’t see it myself.
You opened your classroom to me. Moved aside your staplers and pencil holders and papers to make a place for me next to you. You never treated me like a student, but like a colleague, turning to me for advice, letting me introduce myself, calling me a ‘teacher’ and never a ‘student teacher.’
You gave me your books and lessons to glance over, then you trusted me to make my own decisions. You, who had a healthy career and tremendous respect and shining students and an amazing reputation, gave me your trust. You handed me the attendance sheets and the remote for the projector and the markers for the whiteboard and said, “Go.”
You believed in me. Me—in my brand new dress pants and pressed shirt and clean cardigan and matching flats, but a nervous hint in my steps—you trusted me. You nodded your head as I first began, as I cleared my throat and fired up my teacher voice, as I smiled and began learning names and switching seats and assigning homework and writing on the board in big, bold letters.
You smiled as I took over, as I taught class period after class period. As I engaged students in lessons, as I asked questions, as I remembered names, as I laughed and embodied the teacher I always hoped I’d become.
Then you let me go. You stepped out of the classroom. You walked away. You gave me total control, freedom, independence. These were your students, your classes, but you let them become mine. And so I handled conflicts, I created connections, I built projects and tests and lessons that deepened understanding, that helped my students grow, and that helped me grow.
And this became my classroom, my place, my kids. I decorated your walls, I used your printer, and I ran your computer programs. I became the teacher I had wished to be back in my sophomore year of college, when I first started my clinicals and watched kids hug their teacher, smile at their teacher, ask her questions, tell her stories, and love her. I had wanted to be a teacher like that, a teacher that made a difference and a teacher whom students relied on. Now I am, because of you.
So thank you. Thank you for seeing what I couldn’t—that confidence would come when I first opened my mouth and trusted myself, that teaching was natural once I was prepared, that I could, in fact do this. And thank you for not only guiding me, teaching me to laugh, and helping me to see how beautiful and rewarding this profession really is, but thank you, most importantly, for being my dear friend.