Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Teach. — Of Shawshank Redemptions in the Classroom.

on May 7, 2013


Dear Teacher,

If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out.

If you are a teacher, you probably haven’t left work for the afternoon yet. No, you will be there for a few more hours, grading papers, offering remediation (last chance before the tests!) courses, preparing plans for tomorrow.

And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.

If you are a teacher, you are willing to go to the ends of the Earth for your students and often do. You go above and beyond everyday. You are not only the teacher, you are often the parent, the counselor, the provider, the supporter.

You remember the name of the town, don’t you? I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready.

Because if you are a teacher, you know the name of the town you are looking forward to is called ‘summer’. You have your eyes focused on the calendar, counting down the days to the time when you get your comp time returned to you. For what most don’t understand is that you have already worked the time you get off this summer. You have volunteered your evenings, your weekends, your Friday nights, your Sunday afternoons. This is what the rest of the professionals in the world call comp time, and the month of July is when you get to take this back. So, time for chess? Time for reading? Time for reality T.V.? Time for the pool or the beach? Absolutely. You take your time.

Remember, Teacher. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day/Week/Year!

Your friend,



I am one of those people.

One of those people that got out. Escaped. Saw my chance and grabbed it.

Yeah, a regular old Andy Dufresne. (minus the ‘five hundred yards of sh!t smelling foulness’, as Red described.)

So my escape wasn’t anywhere near that dramatic. Truth is, I got an offer, the kind that can’t be refused.

Yes, I was an elementary teacher.

For ten years, I taught 2nd grade, then 4th grade, then 5th grade.

To this day, I’m extremely proud of my work in the classroom. I worked hard to create a safe place for all students. I focused on building students up, creating a community of learners, an environment where they felt connected and responsible for each other. I learned new techniques and strategies and focused on effective instruction. I read professional magazines and journals and books and brainstormed with my colleagues. I loved the art of teaching.

Mostly, I am proud of my students. Proud of the moments when I was witness to the light bulbs. My students who have now all graduated. My last class of 5th graders are now in (or should be in) college. Some are married. Some have families or are getting ready to have families. Some have started their careers, others are still searching for the right fit. I have high expectations of each and every one of them. And they know this.

But eight years ago, I left my classroom for what I thought would be a year. A year to stay at home with Y and get her started in this world. Just before I was getting ready to head back for the first day of school, I was offered another position. It was the dream job–a perfect mix of the things that I love about this teaching gig, minus the things I don’t enjoy. And let’s be honest, the classroom is hard work. Good work, but hard work. Probably some of the hardest work that there is with the biggest amount of responsibility.

So I grabbed it … and other than taking another year off to stay at home and get X started in this world, I’m still there, working with curriculum and professional development, working with teachers and counselors. It is good work and I think it is a gift to say that I enjoy most days.

But recently, I had the chance to do some classroom observations. I got to sit in the back of the room and watch other teachers hard at work at their craft. I watched students engaged in their learning. I watched teachers work the room, connecting with students, laughing with them. For 45 minutes, I watched as students wrote, read, asked questions, raised hands, discussed with each other, … there was even some singing that took place.

As the bell rang, and the students jumped up to tend to their social lives during the next few minutes, I became aware of a feeling. A strangely, odd feeling that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

I was a little jealous.

It is true. It was such great examples of effective teaching, that they did what I thought was impossible.

They made me miss the classroom.

So to all of the teachers out there. A sincere Thanks. Please know you are appreciated by many, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

And I’ll close with a little classic–“Get busy living or get busy dying. That is goshdarn right.”

(Sorry, my former students might be reading, I just can’t curse in front of them!)


–The letter to Red, adapted of course, from the all-time classic, “Shawshank Redemption”.


3 responses to “Teach. — Of Shawshank Redemptions in the Classroom.

  1. Jan Francis says:

    Oh my, I loved this and I love teachers! I’m so proud of you for being able to put into words what I have thought about those amazing teachers!!!!!

  2. Pat. Yourself on the back. Can I just say that I love what you are doing here with this blog? I don’t know how you stay focused enough to keep up with such solid posts every day – some hilarious and some that give me that mommy lump (in my throat). Thanks so much for the Like on my sports post!

    • MommyVerbs says:

      Wow. Thank you so much. That has to go on the list of best compliments ever. I am so thankful that people like you stop by and read these tales and then share your generous spirits with me. I am always in awe of the writing you do as well. Thank YOU!

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