The Learning Curve

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 05 2011

Teaching towards Redemption

*Take me to that old familiar place
Take me to memories we won’t erase
Take me to all that we had
Good and the bad

I’ll never forget you
I’ll never let you go
I’ll never forget you
I’ll always remember, I hope you know

Dear Winners,

You were the students I was lucky enough to teach. 17 days of instruction and such deep hopes that I’d be one of the ones who’d see you grow. It’s hard to think of our start together as such a short time ago. In some ways it feels like years and in so many ways, it feels like it was no time at all.

First and foremost I must apologize. You deserved better than me. You taught me, with your words, your actions, and your confidence – or lack thereof – in your personal abilities and intellect, that one can do all she can and it can still not be enough. I have never been so exhausted in my life. I have never worked harder for anything before I met you all. I could have, and should have, been better for you. I learned so much through you and with you, but I should have been better for you.

Let the record reflect the records we set
Best foot forward with every step
And let’s push towards it, never regress
And let’s remember, if ever we get
Down, the places that we came from ’round
And all the good times on the bad side of town
The upside of bad, flip it upside down
Came from the bottom but we up high now

Believe, and from this view we achieved
We looked back at the rules we received
And how we broke those, dismantled and rewrote those
And the ghost still alive in the photos
Sounds of the summer, day and go wise
Cold wind blowin’ through a city on fire
Moments of the past, came here to find you
Not to relive them, just to remind you

You have grown so much in such a short amount of time. In four weeks – four weeks! - you have shown me that you will work hard when someone expects you to. You will push in your chair because you know that respectful scholars respect their spaces. You will walk silently and in a straight line in the hall because you are a young citizen of your school, your neighborhood, and your world, and in each stride you prove it. You will respect each other because it is an imperative. You will work hard in summer school, just like you work hard during the school year, because MVPs practice in the off-season, too. You will grow, and get smarter, because you can and you deserve it.

More than anything, you will continue being the kids who made this the only thing I could possibly be doing with myself at this very moment. Somewhere in that summer school classroom is a future mayor, a future soccer star, an actress, and a teacher. You didn’t learn how to be those things from me. You didn’t even begin thinking of those things because of me. You just let me be blessed enough to witness it catch fire.

I did my best, or what I believed to be my best at the time, and I know it was not enough. Thank you for expecting more of me and encouraging me to expect more of myself. I will do better. I will be better.

And let the evidence show, the future’s so bright
It’s never been more, not like tonight
We walk into the glow, right into the light
The past all around us, the time of our life
The first love kisses, the broke heart disses
This is just like a first-class ticket
Back, to the first written rap
The crumbled-up paper and the pen with no cap
The hand-me-down clothes and the unturned hat
The hookers on the corner and the kids sellin’ crack
The needles in the yard where we used to play catch
Stories from the project we could never go at
Or to, these are shades of my youth
Trials of a child, everything truth
Moments of the past, comin’ back to find us
Not to relive them, just to remind us

Thank you for telling me about your baseball team, and the home runs you scored in a tournament that helped your team win.

Thank you for coming to class the day after your parents were deported, and the week after your uncle died.

Thank you for correcting my mistakes on math equations and volunteering scholarly things like, “I’d really like to know how to simplify improper fractions now, please.”

Thank you for raising your hand to alert a teacher when someone made fun of your mother even though that’s not what you really, really wanted to do.

Thank you for learning that having multiple learning disabilities should never – and will never again – keep you from learning and asking questions.

Thank you for telling me all about your mom’s visit to Georgia, and your dad’s job, and your twin sister’s clothes.

Thank you for writing your teachers letters about how reading and math can help you in your life, even though no one told you to do it.

Thank you for smiling with teeth and sitting up straight when we ask you to, even though you are really tired and you rarely ever sleep in the same place two nights in a row.

Thank you for telling each and every one of your teachers that someone threw your folder away and that you’d never do that and to prove it you’ll do the homework over again because you’re sorry you didn’t bring it.

Thank you for telling me that you earned your lunch detention consequence because you distracted others and yourself, and you expect more from yourself for middle school because you want to be treated like an adult.

Thank you for reading the question out loud like I asked, even though you are ashamed of your English and think you are a poor reader. I hope you know by now – really know – that you were never a poor reader and all the other students like it when you read because your steady voice helps them concentrate.

Thank you for telling me about my fellow teacher who you have a crush on.

Thank you for correcting your mistakes, for volunteering for more homework, for agreeing to let me drill you in multiplication during lunch when that is the last thing you want to be doing.

Thank you for the honor of calling your parents and crying with them over the astounding amount of personal growth you’ve achieved this summer.

Thank you for telling me about the girl you’re dating and asking for my advice, even though you’re only 11.

Thank you for saying goodbye and good afternoon to me every time you go to leave; you have no idea how happy it makes me.

Thank you for humbling me beyond belief.

Love always shines, that’s how I’ll find you
In case you forgot, I hope this reminds you

Take to that old familiar place
Take me to memories we won’t erase
Take me to all that we had
Good and the bad

I’ll never forget you
I’ll never let you go
I’ll never forget you
I’ll always remember, I hope you know

It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to you on Friday. I hope that when you make it to middle school, you remember the four well-meaning teachers who didn’t teach you near enough but every day pointed out how much they loved you. I hope that as you go through life, even if you forget us, that you never forget what you’ve done and how far you’ve come.

I hope you know that it’s never too late, and that you can make it out if you want to and you work hard enough. I hope you understand that life has been extremely unfair to you but you are destined for a break soon.

I hope I did you some good. I hope I remember you forever and teach my future students even more than I was capable of teaching you. You lit the world on fire this summer and you made us all proud. You should be proud of yourself.

“Our children are our legacy. Not some of them. All of them.”

Jeremy Beard

Thank you,


* Lupe Fiasco ft. John Legend “Never Forget You.”

One Response

  1. sp

    baaaah. tears. love you! you are where you’re supposed to be and i’m so proud of you.

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