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Dear Student

2011 June 21
by prgiff

We had guests for dinner the other night. And always when I spread the cloth over my table, I think of Scott. The cloth is ecru with cut-work that outlines the softest beige flowers. It’s a beautiful cloth, but precious because of the story behind it.
There’s always a story, isn’t there?
But this one reminds me of the blessings of being a teacher, the joy that relationships with students bring…and linger more than forty years.
In those days I taught sixth grade, a fascinating age, the kids were at the top of the heap in our school, feeling their oats, amazed at how they’d grown and how small the younger ones were.
But sometimes life wasn’t all that easy. And maybe Scott wasn’t having an easy time; he didn’t give me such an easy time. Sometimes he was angry, and once, he banged his books on his desk and walked out of the classroom.
In June, I said goodbye to them with some sadness. They said goodbye to me with glee; they were middle schoolers now. I walked the three blocks home thinking about those kids that were mine for a year.
September came, another year, another group of kids, a new beginning. But late afternoon, I sat at my kitchen table, marking papers, when the doorbell rang.
Scott stood there, scowling a little. “I’m having trouble with math.”
“Come in,” I said.
Even now, all these years later, I think about that moment with such nostalgia, such joy.
He came almost every day. We sat at the table, going over the problems, doing the work, until he was sure of it, sure of himself.
And the tablecloth? A gift from his parents, his mother holding out the package, both of us smiling, thinking about the courage he’d had to ring my bell that fall afternoon.
I love having the tablecloth, I treasure the memory it holds. I’m so grateful for the belief that dear stormy child had in me.
I wonder where he is now, as I do about so many of my students. I think about them, wishing I could know what happened to them, how their lives evolved. I wonder if they remember me. I hope so.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Carol Carbin permalink
    June 21, 2011

    Hi Mrs. Giff,

    I am always so excited when I open my emails and see that you have added a new posting. I forwarded this to a few teachers and know they will enjoy reading it as they are saying goodbye to their students this week. Happy Summer:)

  2. rhonda permalink
    July 13, 2011

    Just wanted to say that if I could write like anyone, I wish I could write like you! In just one sentence, you have me! What a great talent and gift! Love the story above, Dear Student; you write so visually, I can see it all before my eyes like a play. Just finished pictures of hollis woods a few minutes ago. Told myself about 18 months ago that every lunch hour I read a little bit of a Newbery Award Winner or an Honor Book. This week, I chose hollis. I would only read until I got choked up or if I thought it might be a “sad” part, but I finished today and now I wish I had another one to read that was just as good as hollis. So…thank you for writing and thank you for enjoying what you do. Katherine Graham once said something that I totally believe in, “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how can anything be more fun?” I am certain you would agree as well.

    Rhonda Wooten
    Age 55 and still loving to read the Newberys!

  3. August 5, 2011

    Dear Patricia,

    Thank you for sharing this memory. I have no doubt your students remember you–after all, sixth grade is one of those coming-of-age years we’ll never forget, no matter how hard we may try. But I also am confident that what you taught–beyond the curriculum–has lasted them a lifetime. After all, Scott first learned humility and courage. And before he mastered mathematics, he learned that he needed to learn, that it was okay to ask for help, and that you loved him and would be both able and pleased to help him. Now, I’m sure his parents taught him those things too, as they taught him the honor of saying Thank You and presenting you with that tablecloth, but you stood in the gap giving hope. As a fellow “educator-author-parent”, Thank You! You’ve encouraged my heart. God bless,


  4. Lois permalink
    September 25, 2011

    I just finished reading R My Name is Rachel. What a lovely book! I didn’t want it to end. I don’t know how you create characters that are so real. I just loved Rachel and Cassie and Joey. By the end of the book, I felt I knew each one. I am inspired by your writing. I miss your Teacher Talk articles. Hope all is well.


  5. October 16, 2011

    Well, as always, you’ve nailed it, Pat. That deep sadness and longing, the pulling of the heartstrings at the end of the year. Just that one student, returning is such a wonderful treat. This week, I had that wonderful bonus that comes to those of us who have the honor of standing in front of a new group every year. Two young girls, now seventh graders, returning to be sure I wasn’t giving the ‘new crop’ anything I’d shared with them last year! Too funny!
    I miss you, dear teacher! I hope all is bright and sunny in your life on this beautiful autumn day!

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