Passing the Torch: A Letter to the New Teacher

Dear friend,

img_3794You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I don’t know your name yet, but you might hear mine in the weeks to come. We’re participants in a relay of sorts, working together yet separately to make a difference in the lives of students. As teachers, we have the privilege of partnering together to cultivate a lifelong desire to learn in countless lives. We will likely never work in the same space together, but we’re partners in carrying out a mission with a common goal.  I’ve passed the torch on to you and you’ll be responsible for carrying it until it’s time to hand it off again. It’s not easy to give it away and entrust it to someone else, but it is necessary nonetheless. Carry the torch with pride.

You’re entering a classroom I love dearly. You’ll be working closely with one of the best teachers I’ve ever known. And the kids who will populate your work week—and nestle themselves deeply in your heart—are precious to me. I miss them every day and as the beginning of a new school year rushes in, I hope with all my heart that you find the same sense of belonging in the classroom that I did. I hope you are stretched and taught by the littles who will call you Teacher. I hope you learn how to be the best teacher you can be. Your lead teacher truly is the best. Soak in her knowledge and compassion.

We haven’t met yet, but I hope we eventually will. In the meantime, here are a few things that you should know about your new work home:

*Expect to be surprised—you never know what nuggets of wisdom are going to come out of the mouths of the littles in your care.
*Don’t be afraid to be real—your students are human; they know what it’s like to be frustrated or tired, or upset or happy or afraid or excited—and you can tell them when you are (in an appropriate way, of course). Let them know if you’re having an off day. More often than not, they’ll offer a bit of innocent advice that will turn your day around. They’re young, but wise.
*Be silly—they need to see that it’s possible to have fun without getting out of control. It’s up to you to model that for them.
*Say yes—when there’s free time and someone asks you to read a book to them, say yes whenever you can. Be animated, use voices. Show them that reading is fun. This is one of the things I miss the most.
*Be present–There will always be something to plan or prepare. I get it. But sometimes those things can wait. Sit with your students, talk to them, find out what they love and what they don’t—each of them is quite an individual. As the year progresses, the shy ones will come out of their shells, the talkative ones will inform you about all kinds of topics, and you will have an abundance of stories to carry with you.
*Remember those “hope moments”—write them down when they happen, because (trust me) you probably won’t be able to recall them when it comes time to share at the next faculty meeting. Those moments will help you through the hard days, which will inevitably come. They’ll remind you precisely why you do what you do.
*Don’t mention the subject of mice in the presence of your lead teacher. The trauma from past experiences is real. (You’ve probably already heard the story…or will as you prepare the classroom. And I’ll probably get in trouble for mentioning it here!)
*Enjoy your time in the white house—it truly is a fantastic place to work.

There are so many more things I would tell you about this place and this job if we were sitting down for coffee. I’ll admit that I’m a little jealous that you’re there and I am here. Picking up the white house torch six years ago was the best decision I could’ve made for that phase of my life. The lessons I learned in that space were invaluable and I carry them with me still. I don’t know what the white house will teach you, but I know you’ll walk away a better person for having been there. I did.

Here’s to your first year in the white house.  Enjoy it and have fun!

Passing the torch,
Ms. Ticcoa