Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Letter to My Students

I told you last week (or was it Monday?) that I wrote a letter to my AP classes this year and individual notes to each student, which I stapled to the back of the general letter. For the past 8 years of my teaching career, I have wanted to write notes to all of my students. This year, I finally did it. (I couldn't write to all of my sophomores, but I decided that was okay. Baby steps.) Could I have spent that time grading essays? Absolutely. Was this a better use of my time? You bet it was. You see, this year was my first year teaching AP, and the thought of it scared the--excuse my pig Latin for a moment--shit out of me. However, they proved all of my fears wrong. I loved teaching them so much that I actually feel a little emotional about sending them off to 12th grade. Anyway, I thought I'd share the letter that I wrote to the classes as a whole. If you don't mind. Here goes.

My Dearest AP students,

When my department head told me that I would have to teach AP this year, I feared for my life. Okay, maybe my feelings carried much less drama, but I worried about whether or not I would do right by all of you. After all, freshmen and sophomores have consumed my life for eight years; my brain could be in a state of Swiss cheese emergency. Truthfully, I also worried I wouldn’t like you because you’d be smarter than I am and act like it. (With more than a shred of acceptance, I can say that some of you are, but I find you far too endearing to dislike you for your intelligence.) Yes, teaching AP for the first time is just as scary as taking AP for the first time. Maybe more so. What if I failed you? What if we didn’t get along? What if you didn’t appreciate my—how do I phrase this?—eccentric sense of humor? (Did you catch my anaphora there?)

I know I am an English teacher, but the words to express how much I’ve loved teaching you this year stick in my throat. Allow me to try. Every one of you has surprised me in the best ways. Just when I think you cannot impress me anymore than you already have, you leave me wondering such things as, “Did that just happen (in a good way, not an I-have-to-write-a-referral-for-that-don’t-I? kind of way)? Did that student really slather himself in mud to play the role of Pap? Did that male student really don a wig and speak in a high-pitched voice in order to play a female role? Did those students just hold a discussion in Parliamentary fashion, clapping included? Did those students just devise a creative solution for increasing their learning while decreasing my workload? Did a student actually draw that masterpiece (and not some horribly inappropriate doodle on a desk)? Did a student really bring in a praying mantis for me? Did I really just read those beautiful words in a teenager’s essay?” Every single one of you fills me with pride.

I recognize how arduous this year has been for most of you, and thank you for taking this journey with me. Hopefully, you feel that taking the AP Language and Composition plunge was worth every all nighter, every moment of intense frustration, every dreaded AP essay, every blasted Scarlet Letter quiz, every group project, and every laborious annotating assignment. Hopefully, you feel as if you learned more than you expected to this year. Hopefully, you feel proud of yourselves and recognize how much you evolved academically. Some of you mastered argument techniques, others persevered in the public speaking arena, others improved every AP essay score by at least one point, and others learned how to manage their time effectively. All of you improved. All of you make me proud. All of you made my eighth year of teaching my best year of teaching.

My mom tells me that I “popped out of the womb wanting to teach,” but sometimes I wonder if all of this passion for what I do leads to making a difference. It is you who has made a difference in my life. So, thank you for reminding me why I went from teaching a bedroom full of lifeless stuffed animals to a classroom full of living, breathing, spirited students.

Thank you, all of you,
Ms. Wo

Yeah, so, I just reread my letter and teared up. Crikey, am I a sap or what? I tell you what. As crazy as teenagers might drive me sometimes, I love what I do. No, I do not like the bureaucratic educational system, nor do I like the negative light our country currently casts on teachers as a whole. However, I do not teach for those people. It is those crazy, wonderful, impulsive, creative children who inspire me. I shouldn't have to explain myself to anyone other than those kids. After all, they're the only reason I return every single day. 

On that note, let's not-so-successfully transition to some pictures of what I wear. Hooray! Feel free to judge me for showing you two outfits in a row that feature these sandals. I'm not sorry. (Focus on how much you enjoy this color combination. It's like summer with a hint of fall. And the shade makes my legs look a little less pasty. Thanks, shade.)

The Look:
Dress: Pim & Larkin via thredUP
Cardigan: New York & Co.
Sandals: Franco Sarto via Marshall's
Necklace: Target


  1. I really don't know if other people can truly understand the pros of teaching, because you have to be on the inside to see how special it is. I love this letter you've written to your students. And you've inspired me too. I've learned that I'm teaching two new classes next year with a grade level I've never taught before, but you've reminded me that it's another opportunity.

  2. Wait, are we not allowed to wear the same sandals two posts in a row? Whoops. Major fail. I wonder if there is a difference in teaching the same group of students every day vs. only three days a week. Or maybe it's a difference between high school student and college students. I do not feel this way about my students at the end of the semester. In fact, most of the time I just want to send them a letter that says "good riddance!"

  3. What a wonderful and heart-felt idea! Thank you so much for sharing this letter with us! I can tell that you are a thoughtful teacher and we are lucky to have you in this education world of ours :)

  4. holy cow - I almost just teared up reading that letter. Teachers like you give me hope for the future generations! Keep up the fantastic work! And you can wear the same sandals as much as you want. I give you official permission.

  5. Girl, I'm not exaggerating when I say what I'm about to say. I resigned from teaching last summer, mainly because my husband and I knew we wanted to move, so I didn't want to start a new contractual year; however, it came at a good time because I. Was. Drained. The school year of 2012-2013 (my last) was that year that towards the end, I woke up crying almost every morning because I just couldn't bring myself to go anymore. This break I've had has been really good for me, and it's allowed to really think about things. Your letter seriously just made me realize why I really did love what I did, and - again, I'm not exaggerating - I may start looking for a teaching job here in California (something I've been determined NOT to do). It's so easy to get caught up in all the politics (Indiana is the worst), but it really is just about those darn goofy kids! Oh, and totes love your outfit, lolzzzz. (I had to add something idiotic at the end to offset my sappiness.)


  6. There is absolutely no shame in wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Shoes totally don't count in the "you wore that again?" rule (for lack of a better word). Those two colors together are just lovely!

    As for your letter, I wish so much that I could have been one of your students. There are far few teachers who care so much about their students. I mean, I've never heard of a teacher writing such a heartfelt letter to their students. That letter was beautiful and I really hope they appreciate your kind words. The fact that you wrote a letter to every single student is just so thoughtful. Keep up the great work. It sounds like you a fantastic teacher, like I ever doubted it for a second.

  7. That was a beautiful letter. I can't imagine how many of your students went home and cried, too. I agree with you, that the children are why teachers do their jobs. Those students were very fortunate to have such a caring teacher.

  8. Every time you write about your life as a teacher, I get SO happy, and this post was no different. Danielle, I got goosebumps reading this letter!! Your passion for teaching oozes out of you in your blog, and I know that in person, it must be exponentially more apparent that you were born to be a teacher. And passion isn't one of those things that you can teach very easily - it's something you have, and hot damn, you HAVE it! Thank you so much for sharing your letter with us! XOXO


Feel free to throw some witticisms my way.