Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A (school) year in review.

Today, I go back to work after a summer break that went by all too quickly. To give myself some inspiration going into this school year, I looked to my former students. As I wrote about last year, to finish up the school year I write my students a two page letter reflecting on the year, and then they write me back. This past year was my best experience as a teacher and it was all because of my students. I seriously loved them so much, and I am a little sad to go into this year with new students I have yet to meet. I am writing this post to inspire myself, because as I anticipate what is to come, I know that this year will be really good, but also hard. It is always a delicate balance of both as a teacher, and by the end of the year, the good greatly outweighs the struggles and I am sad to see yet another group of students move on, always wishing I could keep them in my grasp a little longer. When I go through those hard times this year, I hope to use this blog post to find some encouragement and reassurance from my former students. Perhaps they can remind me that it will all be okay, and maybe even really good.

Excerpts from student letters to me (I highlighted some of my favorite parts):

“One person is inspired by someone who first inspired them and that is exactly what you have done in our lives, specifically mine. At the beginning of this year I came into your humanities class with one mindset, and that mindset was to just get through the year. Throughout this past year you have inspired me to become a teacher, something that I never thought I would be. I was able to realize the new found passion I had towards teaching others and being a leader to them as you were to us. Brooke, you weren’t only an amazing teacher you were also a great friend. Whenever I had something to say you would always listen, you gave the best advice, and it was just easy to talk to you. As we move up to the eleventh grade we know that you have prepared us well and that we will not only pass, we will succeed because you taught us to be the best of our ability. You let me know that I wrote strong papers, which is something teachers never told me. Something that every project had in common is that we would learn, create, and send off our knowledge so that others may also be aware. I loved the fact that we were the ones teaching others and sending out what we knew because that made us realize that we are the change. Like Gandhi says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Without you as our teacher we would not have been inspired to change the world, we wouldn’t have thought it was actually possible. Thank you for embracing us as your own and genuinely caring about us. It was honestly such a blessing to have you as our teacher.”
-Savannah A.

“In your class, I feel excited about my work, which isn’t very common for someone my age. Throughout the year, there were multiple times where I stopped and dove deep in thought about all of the things going on in the world and how much you have inspired me to step up and make a difference. I have always had the desire to help others and spread happiness. Being in your class, I have learned ways in which I can direct this attitude of giving and helpfulness to better the world around us. The thing I really wanted to emphasize is my appreciation for your time and effort in teaching me about the world. You have truly inspired me in a way that I cannot describe. I will never forget that it was you who inspired me to make a difference in the world. I think most of us students are just now beginning to decide on what they want to do in their lives. I know that I am going to grow up to be a positive role model for others, just as you were for me.”
-Greg J.

“I’m happy that I have you as a teacher. You were certainly one of my favorite teachers I have ever had because sometimes I could just talk with you and some other students. With other teachers I would get bored easily but with you for some reason, you always find a way to keep the class interested. The main thing that kept me inspired is your continuous inspiration to teach us. You would not only teach us things. You would be a part of the assignment. It seemed you had passion for the subjects. You care for what we learn and if we will enjoy the lesson that you present to us and I’m sorry that it took this long to realize this, but it’s a lot of work to keep a class entertained every day for an entire school year. I don’t know how you did it but you did. You’re an amazing teacher and I hope that next year’s class sees how special of a teacher you are. Thank you Ms. Brooke… thank you for everything.”
-Rodrigo G.

I never knew that humanities class could change my life and inspire me to become a better and more eco-friendly person. I actually learned things that I am sure no one in the sophomore grade has learned. Because of you I have become a better person in standing up for what I believe in and also more conscious of what I buy from stores. After all of the projects that I did, I feel confident that I can make a difference in anything, no matter what grade or age I am. I really hope I inspired you in a way Ms. Brooke, but I know it will not compare to how you have changed my way of thinking about myself and the world around me. This year was amazing Ms. Brooke. Thank you for being such a patient teacher, and opening my eyes to things I never would have known without you showing me. Thank you for making me feel more confident in the fact that my opinion matters, thank you for helping me in becoming a better writer, thank you for this life changing year I will always remember because you made me feel like I can actually do things to make a difference, and thank you for molding me into a better person.”
-Andreana V.

“I saw in you that you were a very nice person, friendly, and that gave me confidence to speak more, and stop reserving my ideas only for me. This has been an important year for me not only from what I have learned in humanities, but what I have learned about myself. I have learned from myself that I can be a really good writer when I believe in myself, also that I don’t need to worry about my accent, about caring if people laugh about my accent because if I keep practicing I will get better. You gave me a lot of confidence to express my opinions and give ideas to the group, something I never did in my last humanities class. I enjoyed every minute I passed at class. You always showed a nice way to say things to not make people feel bad, and I appreciate that from you, always showing a smile to everyone. All the time in humanities class we learned how to be a better person inside and with the world. The biggest lesson you taught us was caring, always caring about the people in need, looking for ways to help those people in need. You changed everyone’s mind by caring for everyone, and we will remember this lesson for the rest of our lives and will apply it to our jobs and lives.  Thank you for teaching me the best lesson, caring, which will be in my heart and mind every day. Thank you for letting me notice that I don’t need to care what people think about my accent. Thank you for getting me in trouble, for making me laugh.”
-Efrain P.

“This class has opened my eyes to a whole world that I thought I already knew. I learned the unfair world that we live in and how we can be somewhat better. Since my first semester, truly I have been keeping up with some organizations, all different, but all to help a world society. You made me an activist and that is something I have to thank you for. I’m not going to lie Brooke, this year I learned about myself more than any other year I have been in school. In your class I understood that I am a person who can make the difference in our world. It has been such a different year; I have managed to realize many things that I never thought I would in my own little world. I have never made a family relationship with anybody at my school especially my teachers. I learned that I am a part of everyone and everyone is a part of me. I have never been a great believer of destiny but being here I have learned that I ended up here for a reason. I know who I am and I know what I want; you have motivated me as a whole to believe in myself and my dreams. To have courage and be kind. And of course stop trying to brag about myself because that will only stop me from getting better. This year was one of the greatest ones if not the best. Thanks for a wonderful year and all you have taught me.”
-Adrian G.

“You have stretched me as a student and definitely as a writer. You have exposed me to global issues that I was only aware of but never took the time to look deeper within myself to know how it affected me. I have come out of this year changed for the better because of the time you took to carefully choose significant topics to study that would make the biggest impact on us as students. As this year comes to an end, I ask myself, what did you learn? Quite honestly, I have learned lots of information and have participated in many challenges, but simply put, I have learned that I am equipped to make a change in this world. I am becoming more in tune with the fact that I am purposed to do something in this world. I hope that I will always be able to look back on my sophomore year as a pivotal point that grew me mentally by the knowledge and life skills that I gained because of a teacher who cared and was passionate enough to challenge her students to bring out the best in them, even though it might have meant long hours of homework and reflection. Thank you, Ms. Brooke for the dedication and passion you shared with us as a teacher. I hope that my future will be surrounded with more teachers and professors like you. You have really made this year a fun and successful one and you should look back with great pride on the impact you have made in our lives.”
-Marcus O.

“I am glad I got you as my humanities teacher this year. I love when teachers are so excited about what they teach; it makes the whole class a lot more interesting. And I believe you brought your love for history and writing to this class. I did not think I could love a subject more than I already do, but you managed to make me love it even more. I think the most important thing I learned in humanities class is that I can make a difference, big or small. I love to learn about history, but making history is a lot more remarkable.
-Rachael H.

“I think you have personalized your teaching to the point you make us laugh every class because of your weirdness. I hope you don’t take it the wrong way, I mean it in a good way. I admire how everything you do, projects, classes, etc. you truly do it with passion and thinking about your audience, and us your students. I really admire that from you and I hope that I would also learn from you to be mindful in everything I do (hopefully in my future I also inspire my students, too). This applies to what you have taught us during the course of this year, to be different, not be afraid, and do things with passion. You are a unique teacher and I hope no one lets you change that. You have also inspired me in many ways and I want you to know that I really look up to you. I hope that when I become a teacher I am also able to have some of the qualities you have. Above all things, I wish to be unique and weird like you because those are the type of people that make a difference in this world.
-Renata B.

“Where do I begin? Ms. Brooke, this year would not have been the same without you and Ms. Chen. I was truly blessed to have such amazing and caring teachers. I remember being very nervous to come into the tenth grade because of the experience that I had last year. I ended last year shy and with low confidence. Your support and friendship really gave me the confidence that I was lacking, and I will always remember that. Writing is not what I always thought it was and it might be one of my strengths. All of the projects we did this year in humanities really helped me understand the importance of giving and to live a peaceful and nonviolent life. Other than academics I have learned so many new things about myself. I feel that you and Ms. Chen helped me strengthen my faith and find who I really am. Our talks and the advice you guys gave me really changed the way I think about and see the world. I feel that I have matured so much and know what’s important in life. I learned that if I believe in myself and have confidence and do my best I can be successful in anything I do.”
-Priscilla C.
 (This is a picture of two of my students talking right outside of my classroom.)

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