being a teacher, being me, reflection

Yes, I See You

image from icanread

Dear Mrs. Ripp,

      Today in FACE we were given a assignment that says we have to tell an adult in OMS that we are grateful for them and why. I want you to know that we were free to choose which adult we wanted to do. Out of choice I picked you. I also want you to know that I’m not just saying this because its an assignment, that’s half the reason. The other reason is  that it is true what I’m about to say everything I say is true. So here it is…. Mrs. Ripp I am grateful that you are my teacher, because everyday when I come into class you look so happy to see ME. No teacher I have ever had does this to me. Also everyday in class you are extremely kind to me (like every teacher should be) but when you do these things it makes each day better for me, and I hope for you too! In other words thank you for being such an amazing teacher!
And my heart stopped.
And then the tears came.
And then I called my husband to read it to him.
You look so happy to see ME
And I am.  Every day, I smile.  Every day I laugh.  Every day I get pushed harder than I have even been pushed before, not just by the kids who deserve so much, but by my own perfectionism that can be punishing indeed.  But I see them, and I call them by name.  I remember their troubles, I remember their lives.  I ask those questions that we sometimes forget to ask even though we know they matter so much.  I stop, listen, much like the people I work with do.  And together, every day, we try to see these kids, not just teach them.  And yet, whether this is my home has hung above me like a ghost.
You see, I have doubted myself so much.  I have doubted whether I deserved to be in the job that I have now.  Whether my words mean anything to these 7th graders.  Whether my passion would shine through, whether I could do it.  Even on the good days, and there have been many, that voice has torn away at me; do you deserve to be here?  Is this what you are meant to do?  Are you good enough?
You see 7th graders are tough. You think you have them figured out and a new kid shows up the next day, sometimes the next hour, and you had it all wrong.  They want you in so many roles that you often forget what you started out doing, just so you can help that one child in front of you at that very moment.  Who cares about what should have been done when this is more important?
So this note.  On a random Wednesday, from a child that I already knew I was lucky to teach, this note changed everything.  This note made it click, and for the first time I said those words aloud that have been sneaking into my mind these past few weeks.  Maybe I was meant to be a 7th grade teacher.  Maybe 4th and 5th were just the courage builders, the years I needed to find my feet.
Because I see them.  And they see me.  Every single day.  And every day I hope that they see how I smile, not because I have to, but because I can.  Because teaching these kids is what I was apparently meant to do.  I guess I just hadn’t realized it yet.
I am a passionate  teacher in Wisconsin, USA,  who has taught 4, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now from Powerful Learning Press.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

8 thoughts on “Yes, I See You”

  1. That is beautiful! You must be a truly special teacher for a 7th grader to say such profound things in the present in the now when he will have to face you the next day-that is HUGE and says you are special!

  2. Wow, what an incredible gift to receive! But I’m sure it just mirrors the gift you are to your students. I hope you’re enjoying teaching grade 7. It’s a wild ride and I love it.

  3. Pernille thank you for always sharing “all of you”. It’s what makes your writing so powerful. We often question ourselves and I think that’s what helps us get better and improve. But it is not an easy process and it is easy to get tired along the way. I am glad that wonderful spirit wrote wrote that piece that helped to fill your tank back up again because it is a long ride but one for which you are well prepared.

  4. This is beautiful, Pernille. I feel sad for your student when he says, “…everyday when I come into class you look so happy to see ME. No teacher I have ever had does this to me.” To be in 7th grade and to never have had a teacher who is glad to see him breaks my heart. Everyone wants to be “seen,” and you are prepared each step of the way in your journey to see everyone, include the unseen. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

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