Thanksgiving: For My Former Students

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Posting this piece at Thanksgiving has become a tradition.  Once more, the holiday gives me an opportunity to say thank you to my former students. You’ve enriched my life beyond measure, and I am grateful for the time we spent together and for the contribution you are making to our community and to the world.  Was it worth it? All that time and energy and love? The answer is yes. Every single day, every single year. 

You have sold me carpet and cleaned it, accepted my dry cleaning, butchered the meat for my table, helped me find clothes in the right size,  checked out my groceries at the supermarket, and brewed coffee for me at Starbucks. I’ve regularly walked with one of you in the March for Babies, and I’ve removed my shirt in the doctor’s office so another of you could give me a shot. I’ve run into you in bookstores, grocery stores, elevators, and train stations, been in attendance with you at concerts and plays, and even been hailed on the street in a distant Western town. One of you approached me in an airport and went on to describe your work repairing the wind turbines in a county adjacent to ours.

Some of you have been wounded in war, and others of you are still serving. I’ve worried about you in Vietnam, in Iraq (I and II), in Afghanistan, and in other troubled spots around the globe. Recently, one of you died serving this country. Our whole community mourned, and that year, in your name, students at our high school collected items for Care Packages for soldiers stationed around the world.

Some of you have worked for my husband or me. One of you is a contractor who remodeled my husband’s lab; another was his lab technician. Two of you have taken care of our yard during the summer when we have been on vacation; another has walked our dogs.  You’ve waited on us in restaurants; you’ve hauled boxes for us when we remodeled.

I’ve worked with one of you on a research project and together we’ve served on the board of a community organization.

Many of you are my Facebook friends; some of you read this blog. Some of you follow me on Twitter.

You’ve substituted for me in the classroom, and a great many of you are teachers yourselves. One of you is an author and instructional coach; another, a school principal. Some of you are nurses; some doctors. At least one of you sells real estate, three at least are lawyers, and several of you are college professors. Some of you sell produce at the Farmer’s Market; others farm on a larger scale. I can count among you a writer, a chef, a veterinarian, and a musician.  A television personality and a museum director. A singer and songwriter, a pitcher for the Padres and another for the Marlins. A football player with the Packers. A videographer in Hollywood. A dancer. Several of you are pharmacists. One at least is a politician, another a personal secretary to someone in Germany. A graphic artist and a web designer, a journalist and a newspaper editor. One of you was a nun, but left your order; one is a priest who has stayed. Managers, retailers, and business owners. Police officers and fire fighters, automobile sales people and automobile mechanics. Electricians and plumbers. Receptionists and cashiers.  Peace Corps volunteers and public relations specialists. Computer programmers, technicians, and teachers. Executives and line workers. Bus drivers. Cafeteria workers. Lab assistants and physicians’ assistants. So many of you I can no longer keep you all straight.

But all of you, all day long, making the world spin round.

Teachers often wonder what becomes of their students, the youth upon whom they have lavished so much time, attention, and love. I am surprised when I list you out like this, and I see immediately what I didn’t wholly envision would happen when you were before me in my classroom year after year after year.

When I knew you, you were children. But you have grown up, evolved, moved past Crazy Hat Day, experimental make-up, video games, and babysitting. Past blue hair and nose rings, past balloons on lockers and crepe paper streamers suspended across hallways. You have come of age, turned your promise into purpose.

You haven’t all won prizes, achieved fame, or made a fortune, but you all make me proud. I had a hand in helping you learn the skills you need to keep our universe spinning. Now you help me. You ease my life, keep me safe, and bring me joy. I’ll take that.

And give thanks.

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9 thoughts on “Thanksgiving: For My Former Students

  1. This is a beautiful blog entry. I hope your students were as moved as I was. As an aspiring teacher, it is really nice to read how you have received as much from your students as they have from you. How rewarding to watch those young students grow into successful adults and know that you were (and are) a part of their lives.

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  2. Sarah, this is lovely and so true! Those teacher among us who are lucky enough to stay in touch with students are blessed beyond measure. It’s the reason we do it. Thank you for this lovely reminder. Count me among the thankful. Suzanne Scotten

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  3. Having been an elementary teacher in TSC for 40 years, I was inspired and impressed to read your message to your former students. What a wonderful way to communicate your gratitude to those who have left your classroom for the “real world”. As you stated, you never know when teaching students what path they might take, but rest assured that most likely you might be lucky enough to cross paths with some along your journey. I, too, so enjoy it when my former students say something when seeing me out in the community. Blessings to you and your family, and thanks for being a dynamic educator and leader. Julia Adams, former third/fourth grade teacher in TSC

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    1. Julia, thank you for this kind message. Thank you, too, for your service to the students in your care. When I was a young teacher, I only hoped to make a difference in their lives, but the longer I taught, the more I became aware that it was, in fact, the students who were making a difference in mine. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling way to have spent my life. I know I am not alone in feeling this way.

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  4. Sarah,

    This is beautiful. Wow, what a group of students you’ve had! And I know some of the students you referred to very well. Looks like you may have taught my boyfriend 🙂 I love your humble ability to take the time and thank your students. I think it is a trend I will adopt in my future teaching career.

    Amanda

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