12 January 2011


With less than a week and a half left together, I present my farewell letter to my American Lit students.

Dear American Literature Students,

For your entertainment, I call the following “An Infrequent Occurrence, or Your English Teacher Does Math.”

Sixteen weeks. That’s eighty school days, give or take. We spend about sixty minutes in class with each other every day, so that’s roughly 4800 minutes. Here’s where the mental math ended, and I had to get a calculator. Don’t shake your head like that—remember, I AM an English teacher.

At first, 4,800 minutes seems like a great deal of time that we’ve spent together. It probably seemed even longer when we were doing things like reading Puritan literature or learning about run-on sentences and comma splices with the ever-so-popular Grammar and Gramper. I’m going to take the math a bit further, though.

Brace yourselves; I know I had to.

In each day, there are 24 hours, which equates to 1,440 minutes. Multiply that by those same eighty school days we’ve spent together. That’s 115,200 minutes. This means that I’ve spent with you only a little more than four percent of the time we’ve each spent alive in those eighty days.

It’s not such a big chunk of time anymore, those 4,800 minutes. In that short time, though, I have grown to know and admire 30 American Lit students whom I will always remember.

I cannot tell you how many times I wrote and rewrote this letter, trying to find the perfect way to tell you everything that I felt I needed to say before having to say good-bye. The truth is, there is simply too much to say. Too much to say about how lucky I feel that I had the opportunity to teach you.  Too much to say about how proud I am of you. Too much to say about how much I will miss you. Although I wish I could tell each and every one of you how meaningful it was to me to teach you, I’d have to recount 144,000 moments that made me happy. So, instead, I will leave you with a few wishes that I have for all of you.

First, I hope that you will follow the words of our old friend Walt Whitman, always remembering “that you are here—that life exists, and identity; / That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.” Whatever your “verse” may be, I hope you each know that your individual voice, your unique abilities, and the brilliance you possess are valuable and important. You will contribute a verse.

That being said, I hope that you will next follow the words of the honorable Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society. Mr. Keating encouraged his students with the words, “Carpe diem. Seize the day…make your lives extraordinary.” I leave you with the same maxim. You are all at an important moment in each of your lives—a moment where endless opportunities await you, if you are willing to strive for them.  It might be a lot of work to reach your goals It will take a lot of work to reach your goals, but that’s okay. Carpe diem. You all can, and I am confident that you all will.

Finally, I hope that the rest of your school year proves to be everything you want it to be. I hope that for every trial you face, you are able to find an even greater triumph, and that you find each day better than the last.  In true English teacher fashion, I’ll leave you with another quote from another American Lit household name. Ben Franklin advised, in Poor Richard’s Almanack, “One today is worth two tomorrows.”  Remember that as you seize each day, because it will remind you that there is even more greatness to have in your future.

1 comment:

carlisia said...

What a great letter, Rachel!