To my incredible former 5th grader,
I hear from your mom that school is not the way you want it. That last year, our year together, was so much better than the one you have now. That reading and writing are no longer your favorite things to do. That a teacher even told you that you can’t read picture books because they are for little kids. You aren’t quite sure that school is fun anymore, that anything can ever beat 5th grade.
I am here to tell you to not give up on school, not that I think you would anyway. You see, we teachers, we say a lot of things, and we sometimes don’t know how our words are taken. I wish we always said the right thing or even did the right thing. But we are human too, and sometimes words come out of our mouths before we have thought them through. Maybe that teacher who told you not to read picture books just hasn’t found the right one yet? Or maybe that teacher doesn’t know you yet. Doesn’t know how great of a reader you are, how you love to read a variety of books. How you love handing books to your teachers to have them read them so that you can share your favorite moments. Maybe that teacher didn’t mean it the way it sounded.
Even if it sounds like I am making up excuses for what your teachers are doing, know that I am listening. Know that sometimes we adults think we know best, even if we don’t. Know that sometimes we do know best but we don’t explain it well. Other times there is a big plan in the works and we have just forgotten to share it with our students. But we do listen, and we do care. And I can tell you that every teacher that gets to teach wants to teach you in the very best way that they can.
We teacher, we try really hard, but sometimes we miss the mark. Don’t you remember last year when I would screw up? How I would come in the next day and apologize? How sometimes you guys had to tell me how I had missed the mark? There is no such thing as a perfect teacher, there are only teachers trying really hard to make school a better place for all of their students. You would have hated being my student six years ago, I said a lot of things about what students were reading that now makes me cringe. And yet, I changed, and so can every teacher that you meet. But you first have to let them know who you are and what you love. You have to let them know how to teach you best, it’s ok, we teachers want to hear it. I know we sometimes seem too busy, I know we sometimes seem like we don’t have time for you students, but we do, and we care, and we want to be the best teachers for you.
So please don’t think school is not great anymore. That would simply break my heart. Instead, think of it as a year full of possibilities. You get to impress all of these new teachers, just like you impressed me. You get to help these teachers teach you best, but they can’t do that if you stay quiet. So find your voice, find a way, communicate what you need. Be respectful as you always have, but don’t lose yourself. You are a reader. You are a writer. And no teacher, whether they intend to or not, can take that away from you.
I am a passionate teacher in Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 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.