I found it quite appropriate that the December 7th “Throwback Thursday: A Series of Letters to My First Students” should preface this post, another letter (we’ll ignore that the original post on December 7th was incomplete before being updated and re-posted this morning).
This letter below differs considerably, however. In it, one will not find advice for high school seniors entering one of their most uncertain summers and on the precipice of their first year as college freshman.
No, this letter unfortunately is in memory of a former student whose family I am particularly close to, a family currently experiencing unfathomable anguish.
What provoked this letter was not my initiative, but rather students at Thornton-Donovan School who in short time planned and executed the construction of a memory book. In a moment of tragedy that I will expound upon at a later time, the lowest of my entire teaching career, I do not think I have ever been prouder of kids.
And it has nothing to do with academics. But everything to do with being human and understanding and supporting one another in a moment that they unfortunately never will be able to forget.
Here is the letter I wrote for the memory book:
In the beginning you were Nikki’s younger sister to me. I figured you would be just like Nikki when I first met her as a sixth grader – quiet and scared of the world around you that Thornton-Donovan insulated you from.
Then, I spoke to you and soon realized you guys each had your own distinct personalities. You weren’t Nikki. You were Romi. Sure, you were quiet at times like Nikki, but you had this confident self-assurance in the work you did that I remember wishing I had at your age. And you had a biting and quirky sense of humor, which is always a plus in my book.
As you progressed, I saw you had your family’s work ethic where you put in your best effort even when you were unsure or probably didn’t care about the assignment. You took pride in your work as a representation of yourself, and that is a quality any teacher cherishes. We all saw it in your art that I could never pretend to have the talent to produce.
I’ve always thought – even before it became a big deal in Wonder – that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice in this world. And although Nikki cautioned me that you were not necessarily nice at home, in my class I always saw a classmate who was willing to help those around her.
And that quirky smile, it was as if you saw something the rest of us didn’t. Maybe you did.
I wish we all could have helped you more. I wish you knew how much love is left here for you – from your teachers, your friends, and most importantly your family. I wish you were still with us. Ultimately, though, I wish you peace and hope one day to see you again.
In loving memory, your teacher,