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"I Wish My Students Knew"... An Open Letter from the Teacher

... on COVID19, School Closing, and a Year Left Unfinished

This afternoon, the Governor of Mississippi announced that schools will remain closed through the remainder of this semester. I'll be honest; I expected this outcome. What I did not anticipate was the flood of emotions I felt immediately after the announcement was made. Literally right after.

I felt like I had been gut-punched with a million "What now...?" questions, and then I was immediately overwhelmed with a need to reach my students. "Google meet?" No. I can't stop crying. "Video message?" No. I can't stop crying. "A read-aloud of a totally relatable book about dealing with disappointment and emotions and..." No. This needs to be genuine. They need to hear my words.

So here I am, typing out words that, I hope, will resonate somehow with my precious students. I was going to send this exclusively through our google classroom, but then some teacher friends asked me to share it with them as well. I am doing just that, in the hopes that other teachers might be able to relate to, and find comfort in, my words as well.

This has been an unusual year for me. After 8 years at my former school, I began this year at a new school, in a new district. I walked into completely unfamiliar territory, and for those of you who have ever changed schools throughout your teaching career, you know how challenging that can be. I knew I was in the right place, but boy, it's hard to start over. For that reason, this year has been incredibly significant for me, personally. To add to that, I have had the opportunity to teach the most amazing group of students! They have helped me through this transition, without even realizing it, and I am so very grateful to them for that.

We went home for Spring Break, and with the exception of Google "Meets," I haven't seen them since. That's hard. I love my work; I invest in my students, and I am committed to their learning. When the governor said we would not return, it crushed my spirits a little.

I'm not discrediting the governor or his decision; goodness, no. This situation is what it is, and I can accept that, because I must. I can try to see the bright side, and I have (more time with my own children, more time to make memories at home, more time...), but any teacher worth a grain of salt has a lump in her throat right now, because in her heart, she's seeing the faces of every student that she can't see anymore.

And the next time I do see them, they will be someone else's student.

I'm sure many of you remember the recent viral phenomenon of "I wish my teacher knew..." featuring student responses to that very simple prompt. Well, I'm flipping the idea. As I thought through the different messages I wanted to communicate with my students, the same phrase kept recurring in my mind: "I wish they knew..." There are so many things I wish my students knew. They may know some of this (I hope they do) but I can't be certain, because our time has been cut short. I don't get a chance to "wrap up" this year with them. We have projects left unfinished; we have lessons left incomplete; and I have things left unsaid. I just cannot leave it that way.

I will not.

Below, you will find my letter... all the things I wish my students knew.

My dear, precious students,

I wish you knew... I remember the first time I met each and every one of you earlier this year. I frantically tried to learn as much as I could about each of you. I'm a fast learner, and you guys are pretty good teachers. I wish you knew that I have enjoyed getting to know each and every one of you.

I wish you knew... I made a silent promise, from the beginning, to do all that I could for you this year. I promised to be the best teacher I could be for you. Now, I feel like I have let you down, because I didn't get to finish that promise.

I wish you knew... I loved seeing your face as you walked into our classroom each morning. You made my days better, just by showing up.

I wish you knew... I had big plans for our last nine weeks together. I wanted us to finish strong, and I couldn't wait to see what your test and fluency scores had to show about your growth this year. I have loved watching you grow.

I wish you knew... I feel a little lost without you. I love my work, and I love our classroom. It doesn't feel right to not be there, learning with you.

I wish you knew... none of this is fair. I know -we don't use that word in our classroom. But I also know you feel it right now, and I have to admit: I feel it too. I feel the tremendous unfairness of it all, and it hurts. It makes me sad, and I understand if you have felt that way too.

I wish you knew... you have been an amazing group of students to teach. You have challenged me to grow as a teacher, and I'm grateful to you for that.

I wish you knew... I hope that years from now, COVID 19 will not be the thing you remember most about this year. I hope we have accomplished something big enough to remain bigger and happier in your memory. I hope the time we did have together is bigger than the time we have lost.

I wish you knew... you are smart. You are kind. You are good.

I wish you knew... I miss you.

I wish you knew... I love you.


Mrs. Tally


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