An open letter to my students past, present, and future:
To my former students: I’m sorry.
For far too many years, it was about me and not about you. I “welcomed” you on the first day of school with a copy of my classroom policies and procedures. I spent our entire first day together describing how “we” do business in “my” classroom. I took a quasi-sadistic pride in my first day of school speech, complete with animal analogies depicting myself as the alpha predator and you as my unwitting prey. My meter stick was my constant companion, brandished about as my weapon, pointer, and fidget spinner. There may or may not have been tears shed as students left the classroom that first day.
I promise you that I always had the best of intentions. While misguided, I wanted to assure you that I would let nothing distract us from the important work that we would do in the classroom and that every single minute of instructional time would be protected. That the AP Exam was our common enemy and together we could defeat it in the number of days remaining posted on the whiteboard. That you should trust that I was the subject matter expert and had all the answers. Just a few more practice multiple-choice problems using the process of elimination, another 5-10 pages of reading tonight with identification note cards, and a five-question quiz tomorrow. And if we did enough “thesis and three” exercises, we would cover all potential essay topics on the exam.
I know now that I let many opportunities go to waste, opportunities that I now regret. While many of you were “successful” in the course as determined by the College Board, I know that our time together did not resonate with all of you. I didn’t allow enough time for you to explore areas of individual choice, personal interest, and meaning. There were few chances for you and your classmates to talk instead of me and to look at the issues and events we covered through additional perspectives and points of view. I hope that since leaving my class you have had opportunities to do just that in your academic and personal endeavors. Some of you have kept in touch with me to share your victories and successes, and for that I am thankful. My wish is that when you look back on our class from years hence, you might see some value in the time we spent together. Wherever you find yourself today, I hope you have found purpose and contentment and I wish nothing but the best for all of you.
To my present students: I’m grateful.
As a fellow educator, administrator, and leader, I am honored to work alongside you to share the lessons I have learned in my professional experience. I hope to learn as much from you as you learn from me during the time we spend together. Nothing will contribute more to our collective success than the relationship of trust and collaboration that we will build. You should have noticed that the first thing we do when we convene is to get to know one another and take a needs/interests inventory. While our perspectives and approaches will vary based upon your needs, our work together will be directed towards one singular focus: Improving teacher practice to positively affect student outcomes.
You will find our time together engaging and interactive. All of the activities and resources I share with you are available online and will be accessible to you long after our class has finished. My contact information and a feedback instrument are provided after every learning session. I hope you take the time to continue the conversation with all of us in the class, whether through feedback or connections with your colleagues in professional learning networks. My belief is that we are all “better together,” and while our time together is temporary, our collective influence and impact is lasting.
To my future students: I’m optimistic.
Should our paths cross in a classroom or professional learning session, my hope is that that you will benefit from the mistakes I have made and lessons I have learned over the years. Expect our learning to be practical, experiential, and collaborative. While a wealth of information is available in online and print formats, it adds no value in a vacuum. As a member of one of my classes, you will be provided electronic access to all course materials, the means to connect and engage with me both during and after our sessions, and the opportunity to provide feedback on all lessons. Each workshop or session is interactive in design and intended to get participants engaged, working, and creating. Strategies I share will be modeled during each workshop to support your learning. Every participant will leave each of my sessions with a takeaway, strategy, or application they could use in their classroom the next day. We will continually assess and reassess our progress and the significance of our learning in improving our collective practice. I cannot wait to meet you and to get started on the important work we get to do in improving educational outcomes for students.
I am honored to serve each and every one of you as your teacher.
Dr. Patrick Boyd