To All the Students I’ve Loved Before
I fall in love every year, and every year I am left with a full, broken heart.
The First Impression
If you recall the first few days, I tried to balance fanning my feathers and beating my chest. I had to win your interest and show that I was the boss.
I learned your name along with anywhere between 70 and well over 100 other new names by playing clever games and using good old fashioned repetition– the key to memorization.
In the first few weeks, we made small bonds through ice breakers and lessons geared to learning who you were.
If you had me in recent years, you wrote me a journal within our first week together. Although I was still struggling to match the words you wrote to the face in my room, I was also falling in love.
By the end of reading your frank, funny, sweet, sassy, sloppy, carefully crafted words, I knew I was done for.
Within hours, I was head over heels in love with you and a bunch of other kids who didn’t have the slightest clue who I was besides the lady who said “silencio” or that she won’t accept late work and that your phone needs to be out of sight, out of mind when you are in her classroom.
Remember? You said:
“I collect sneakers. Each shoe I own has some type of story or some type of sentimental value to me.”
” I wish my friends knew I see them as family, not as friends.”
“Something that drives me insane is my family. They drive me absolutely crazy. Not in a joking way either. I would rather not get into it too much, but out of everything they make me depressed more than happy. But I can’t speak to them about it either”
“One thing most people can’t tell about me is that I am actually pretty “shy,” so that also means my social skills aren’t top tier.”
“I am extremely extroverted.”
“I am actually very passionate about current hot topics in politics such as gun control and women’s rights. I guess I would say I’m an activist.”
“I am a very straight to the point guy, I’m a realist. In history class I was a very depressing person to be around because I would only say the truth.”
“I try to do only things indoors because I’m super Irish and I burn too easy.”
You and your classmates are clearly wonderful creatures, but I didn’t really know it yet. Looking back at your words from the first week, I laugh and say, “Yes, that is so …(you).”
You didn’t lie to me. You were exactly who you said you would be, and I love you all the more for it.
The Budding Relationship
Now, let’s not pretend it was all rainbows and sunshine.
Sometimes, you were so mad at me for not letting you use Snapchat, watch Netflix, turn in work late, or because I made you do work you just didn’t want to do.
We had class discussions, wrote papers, read stories, wrote papers, practiced grammar, wrote more papers, created amazing presentations with cakes and songs… and anything you could come up with under the sun, and wrote more papers.
Unless I taught you Spanish. Then we played games and talked, everyday. Seriously. That is all we did. It was awesome. Games in Spanish and conversations in Spanish, and you left… knowing Spanish. What a life.
But I’m sort of stuck on all the words I’ve read right now. I’m kind of stuck on all your stories. I am having a hard time moving on.
The Break Up
“I don’t want it to end.”
That is what you (or one of the other students who had me… who this is also written to) said. On the last day together, after you clicked submit on your last paper, you said, “Mrs. Burtram, I don’t want it to end.”
I didn’t show how much this filled and crushed me in that moment, and it stuck with me all day, all weekend, and all week. I imagine it will always be with me.
It is another year of breaking up summed up in six simple words.
But you need the break up.
You are ready to go conquer the world and write some pretty kick ass essays while you do it… if I do say so myself.
And I am over here like the kid in Lassie or Benji or whatever movie it is that has a scene where the little boy is yelling at the dog to just go because it is better for the dog, but it is tearing the kid up and he is crying… Don’t get too picky about the details of the scene or which movie it came from. I am clearly emotional about all this right now, and I will cut you if you correct me. Also, I said, a bad word. Get over it. I am busy processing a break up with not one, but 100 loves for the millionth time in my life, and I don’t know if my heart can take it anymore. I don’t even have the energy to fix my poor sentence structure and terrible word choice. Don’t ask me to filter.
Why do I do it to myself?
Each year it gets harder and harder, and I’m not sure I can do another first day.
I stand by the whiteboard looking at a sea of strangers and ask myself, “Rebecca, do you have it in you to love like you did the year before?”
In that moment I don’t know if I have what it takes to truly know the wonderful mysteries sitting before me. I know they will baffle, thrill, and annoy me to no end. They’ll give me a thousand stories to tell my husband and my friends about the clever, stupid, rude, or sweet things they will do all year long. But then the last day will come, and I’ll be thinking, “I don’t want it to end,” and some pain in the butt kid will actually say it right out loud.
AND I WILL BE DONE FOR.
So maybe I need to sit on the couch and ugly cry while eating a tub of ice cream, go for a really long run, never leave my house again, or maybe I should do the thing I have worked so hard to teach many of you to do. Maybe I need to write.
So I wrote you a letter to let you see a glimpse of how much you have meant to me.
You probably don’t know that it’s definitely about you because you think I am only talking about that one student from my first year teaching Spanish who always seemed to make me laugh or the kid from this year who clearly loved to write. But you are wrong. It’s about him, her, and you.
You have conspired to fill my heart then walk away, just like all the students I have loved before.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Go spread the love and spread your wings. You are unique and amazing, but I will love again.