School's out for summer.
I pretty much had my classroom packed up for the summer yesterday, so today was looking forward to a relaxed half-day before checking out.
Before the day had even started, a seventh-grader walked in, introduced herself as a former student's sister, and handed me an envelope. Inside was a three page, handwritten letter that shook my world.
To summarize, her sister, who I had as a student two years ago, had written to thank me for saving her life.
"I don't know if you knew..." that when I had her she had been contemplating suicide. Barely 13 and not sure she had anything to live for. She credited my management style for giving her an opportunity to make friends in the class which, I'm happy to say, became a place of joy and friendship for her. She wanted me to know of the joyful life she now lives.
I admit that I couldn't finish it at that time. I read as much as I could - enough to see that she was all right now - before I tried to continue with my day. I wrote her a brief email to thank her, to let her know that her letter was the most important letter of my teaching career and to promise to write more tomorrow about what her effort means to me.
I will do so.
In the meantime, today became a day of reflection.
It's hard, sometimes, to be the weird teacher. The one who lets the students choose their own seats and doesn't change the seating chart unless there's a problem. The one who allows constant conversation during work sessions (I mean, since when are we guaranteed a silent environment to do our work?) The one who won't accept late work - even for partial credit - and tells the students to keep their crappy textbook at home. The one who uses a special answer document for the only two multiple-choice question tests of the year, the "scratcher" form that gives you points for your second choice and third choice and fourth choice answers so that it's really hard to fail the tests. The one who gives more points for your family history and genius hour projects than any other project during the year. The one who won't tolerate bullying but otherwise lets you scrap your problems out for yourselves.
And so I am beyond touched to hear that for this student, my style made a significant difference. For her, for her family, for her community. For her world.
I am proud and humbled at the same time.
I was able to complete the day. I packed the car with things I will purge over the summer. I took a ride on my friend's Vespa. (We cracked up. Two grandmas on a scooter taking an adventure around the block. There was a police car at the stop sign and a fire engine at the lighted intersection. On the ready!) After school was a visit with my mom, and a comfort stop at the Michael's.
On the way out of the craft store I walked into one of the most stunning sunsets I've ever seen. I didn't want to leave it, but had left my glasses at home and needed to beat it home before full dark.
And was delighted to find that the sunset was still fired up when I got there.
This may be my last summer break.
I think it's starting off just fine.