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valentine heart balloonsTo My Dear Students, Past and Present:

I know you don’t like mushy sentiment. You probably wouldn’t associate that with me anyway (I suspect that is one of the last things that come to mind if you think of me!).  But I’m writing you a Valentine anyway because this is the week for it.  So before you can stop me, I will tell you: I love you.

I love you because you showed up. Sometimes you were sleepy from working two jobs.  Sometimes you were homeless, parentless, hungry, sad, or overwhelmed by being a parent yourself.  Sometimes you struggled to understand words that were not your first language.  Sometimes you were distracted by the actions of someone in your life.  But you still showed up.  And because you did, I got to be your teacher and you made my life infinitely better.

I love you because you tried.  Sometimes you were frustrated by assignments, by reading, by writing.  Sometimes it was hard to digest all the information you were given.  Sometimes you couldn’t see the point.  But you still tried.  And because you did, I got to be your teacher and you made my life enormously better.

I love you because you took a chance.  Sometimes you thought those simulations were stupid, but you showed up in costume anyway.  Sometimes you were nervous to present your ideas to the class, but you created something amazing anyway.  Sometimes you weren’t sure what I’d think of your opinion, but you told me anyway.  Sometimes you didn’t think it would ever matter, but you learned it anyway.  You took a chance. And because you did, I got to be your teacher and you made my life immeasurably better.

I love you because you haven’t given up.  You went to college when people told you not to bother.  You got a scholarship because you earned it. You built a career when people told you that you were too young.  You’ve raised your child when the world seemed against you.  You’ve returned to school to get your diploma after everyone thought you were a lost cause.  You lead in your community, you lead in your school, you lead in your workplace.  You make art, you make music, you make speeches, you make plans, you make friends.   And you don’t give up.  And because you haven’t given up, you are my teacher, and you make my life remarkably better.

You were -and are- always more than the sum of your schoolwork and grades, and I should have told you that more often.  You were -and are- always more than what your family history, your neighborhood, and your own past say you are, and I should have told you that more often.  You were -and are- more than even you realize, but I believe you will discover that about yourself.   You have helped me discover so much, learn so much, and grow so much.  And, in the end, you are more than just my former or my current students – you are my teachers and my inspiration.

And you are my best, most favorite Valentines.

Cari Zall has been a Social Sciences educator for over 12 years, in both brick & mortar and online...

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