We’re Still in the Classroom Together

At the end of each year, we’d clean our desks off with shaving cream, recalling lessons learned while preparing for the future year ahead.

Some of the greatest moments of my life were the ones spent together with you. I remember your faces, your smiles, your independent projects, your Wordmasters hats, making tie-dye shirts, cleaning our desks with shaving cream, and your emergent handwriting that at times required advanced deciphering skills. I remember your playful comments, your amazing insights into classroom read alouds, and your kindness and generosity displayed to the world around you. Teaching is not a lucrative endeavor in terms of financial compensation, but you made me wealthy beyond measure.

When you left my doors for the last time, I tried to equip you with many lessons. Sure we covered the state-mandated curriculum, but there were the life lessons that we explored in the stories, experiences and moments that we shared. You learned equivalent fractions, but you also learned the equivalence of human dignity. You learned synonyms and antonyms, but you also discovered nuance, and how to compose and articulate meaning. You learned about the courage of Ruby Bridges, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and the Little Rock Nine, as well as those that would oppose them like Bull Connor or Orval Faubus. You learned about the uniqueness and diversity of our national regions, but also the uniqueness and diversity of our people, and how all people deserve to be honored, respected and celebrated.

When you left my doors for the last time, I gave you a letter, and reminded you that life itself is a classroom. It is an open, mysterious, wonderful daily adventure in learning. I reminded you of some of the lessons we learned from Eben McCallister (The Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs), The Potter Children (The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles), Edward Tulane (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane), or Jeremy Fink & Lizzy Muldoun (Jeremy Fink & the Meaning of Life). These characters learned much from the world around them, but most importantly, they learned about themselves. They learned to cherish the people in their lives.

When you left, I signed your letter “Always your teacher; always your friend” because you are indeed my friends. Over the past few years, many of you have returned to the classroom to say hello and visit my current students who occupy the very desks you sat in not long ago. Many of you have also connected with me through social media, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And I’ve crossed paths with many of you in the community. You are in high school, college, graduate school, or have already begun your careers. I couldn’t be more proud of you.

Wherever you are in your personal journey, I still have hopes and dreams for you. And I still want to remind you that life is indeed a wonderful classroom. It is filled with characters and stories that populate the your school’s seats and hallways; your places of work; and your communities, as well as the homes that are located perhaps a few towns away from yours. As humans, we tend to default to the known, the similar, and the comfortable when it comes to our social interactions. We understand the richness that comes from traveling to new and unique destinations, and we’ve experienced the growth that comes from tackling goals or challenges that stretch our boundaries, but when it comes to our social circles, we often default to comfort.

So one of my hopes and dreams for you is to reach out and stretch yourselves to experience the richness that comes from developing diverse social experiences. Try cuisines that are unfamiliar. Go into the homes of people that have a different culture than your own. Deliberately discover the stories and experiences of people that are dissimilar to you. Older. Younger. Darker. Lighter. Different religions. Different partner preferences. Different personal pronouns. Different perspectives.

I know it sounds cliche to say that you are the future, but let’s face it, the reins are being passed. The torch is changing hands. The phrase ‘2020 vision’ typically refers to normal visual acuity. But I hope the future that you build is not the normal one that you inherited. I hope you remember to ‘dare greatly’ as you construct it. I hope it is one that reflects your kindness, your dreams, your principles and your creativity. I hope it is inclusive, equitable, and just.

We’re still together in this classroom called life, but you are now beginning to write the lessons. You are beginning to lead the conversations. You are writing the next chapters. I couldn’t be more proud of each of you.

Always your teacher, always your friend,

Mr. A.


2 thoughts on “We’re Still in the Classroom Together

  1. Greg,
    This is lovely and spoken from the heart. Your lucky students are blessed to have learned life lessons from you.


  2. Dear Mr.A,
    Beautifully written.. yes! It’s true you will always be Aurav’s teacher and a great friend to him!
    He was lucky to have you as his “Guru”. Thank you for everything!

    Liked by 1 person

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