An Open Letter to My Students

My Colleagues During Pre-Covid Times—Some of the Finest People I Know

Dear Former Students,

Every so often, I feel the need to check-in and let you know that I’m still thinking about you.  That might seem a little weird to noneducators, but I don’t care.  One lesson I’ve learned over the years is that the only people whose opinions we need to worry about are those we care for.  It’s human nature to want people to like us, but it’s impossible to please everyone.  With that in mind, concentrate on setting your own goals.  That doesn’t mean you’re selfish.  You should care about your family, friends, and the world, but your first responsibility is caring for yourself. 

I’ve been retired for four years, and not a day goes by when I’m not thinking about you.  I can guarantee you that many of your old teachers are thinking about you as well.  How can I promise that?  I know they’re paying attention because when teachers get together, retired or not, we talk about our students.  We care about you.  We get invested in your lives.  We want the best for you.

Before the pandemic started, many of the retired teachers, aides, and other workers in our school district gathered for lunch once a month.  Of course, we talk about our children, grandchildren, travels, and what we’ve been up to, but one subject that always comes up is our former students. You should see all of the heads turn at the lunch table when somebody has a bit of news to share about one of you. It’s not that we’re a bunch of gossipy people; it’s because we want you to be happy and successful.

What is success?  That definition can vary from person to person.  For me, success isn’t about having lots of money, though it does make things easier.  It’s more about going after and achieving the things that you want out of life.  I’m not talking about material things.  I’m referring to a job that makes you happy, a family you love, having great friends you can count on in good times and in bad, and being the kind of person that others look up to.

Success to me also means contributing something to your community.  If you have the opportunity to help someone, take it.  When you get the chance to lead others, embrace it.  Given a time to make your community better, go for it.  Not only will you be helping others, but you’re going to feel better about yourself. 

When you make a mistake, own up to it.  I’ve made my fair share, but I try to learn from each experience.  None of us are perfect.  Do your best in all aspects of your life because someone is looking up to you.  It might be your kids, a niece or nephew, a younger sibling, your friends, even someone you don’t know well.

Keep chasing those dreams!  I’ll be watching from the cheap seats.

Love,

Mr. Springer

72 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Students

  1. Pretty terrific post Pete! You checked all the boxes, drew several more, and checked them as well. I liked teaching from day one, as a job, and it soon became a calling, as you have so aptly described. Learning about the successes of former students is very rewarding. Good job!
    Kent

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 12:24 pm

      As an incredibly dedicated teacher, I know you get it, Kent. It’s more than just your 42+ years; it’s the quality of those years. We get pretty invested in their lives. The realities of life mean that not every story has a happy ending, but we never give up on them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So beautifully put Pete, And so very true

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 12:26 pm

      It must be gratifying for you, Beth, to watch your little ones become future leaders. Thank you for your many years as a teacher.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. and back at you –

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The cheap seats are often the best – for perspective especially!
    Your letter is a special gift to your former students – thank you for making it ‘open’ for us all to benefit from!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 12:27 pm

      I’m an old sap—the kind of guy who ends up crying during dog food commercials, Laura, but I’ll never apologize about caring for my students.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 2:32 pm

      Thanks, Kim. As you well know, there are a lot of committed teachers in the profession. As a retired teacher, I feel so much empathy for them in trying to make a nearly impossible situation work.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My niece teaches special needs children, and she’s been having a rough go of in the pandemic–but she’s still giving her all for her students (and her own two children as well).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 4:29 pm

        Hmm, my last reply to you disappeared into the atmosphere somewhere. I’ve thought about how much harder teaching has been for the past couple of years. It’s a challenge for everyone. Can you imagine working parents who are trying to provide support to their little ones? I’ll bet your niece is doing an amazing job. It’s discouraging when you feel like your best is not good enough.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. From my conversations with her, I would say that she is doing an amazing job. I worked with education majors in special ed in my prior job, and it did seem that teaching was becoming more and more difficult with so many demands being put on teachers and of course the pressure for good standardized test scores brought about by No Child Left Behind.

        Like

  4. Perfect, Pete! ❤ I'm right there with you all… smiling and singing their praises! ❤ xoxoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 3:05 pm

      I think it is human nature to try harder when we know someone is in our corner supporting us. Thank you for being that teacher, Bette.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Fabulous advice, Pete. I’m sure your students appreciate you now as much as they did when you were teaching them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 4:11 pm

      Be careful. You might see my eyes starting to roll. Teaching is a lot like parenting. They only want to listen to you for so long. On the other hand, I’ll always remember those parent/teacher conferences where the parent said, “Can you talk to him? He’ll listen to you.” Choose your battles carefully. 🤣

      Liked by 2 people

      1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 4:32 pm

        At the end of the day, we want our students to live their best life. Don’t you just love those unexpected happy endings for kids that came from a tough environment only to overcome all of the obstacles in their lives?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I certainly do! It happens with adult students, too. Some complete their college degrees despite significant obstacles.

        Like

      3. I’m sure you were important in their lives and they will remember you. I still have fond memories of the primary school teacher (over 55 years ago) who recognised my potential and helped me make the most of it, and I bet yours are the same.

        Like

      4. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 4:24 pm

        I’ve thought of that often. I remember some of my elementary teachers so clearly while other years are almost blank. I don’t know if that says more about them or my failing memory.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I think it’s them – they have earned that place in your memory.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. You teachers are the best! And, it’s all great and true advice.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 4:17 pm

      The problem is we actually think somebody cares what we think. About the time we think we’re something special, the kids will humble you. One of my Zoom teacher friends told me a couple of good ones recently: 1. She was taking roll, and a kid fell asleep during the attendance. I can picture a kid doing that to get a laugh from the others, but not on accident. 2. Apparently, there is some way to take a frozen image of yourself on the screen, so the teacher thinks you’re actually there, paying attention. Glad I didn’t have to experience this teaching world. It’s hard on teachers, kids, and parents.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We’re just all holding on till it’s over.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 7:30 pm

      I’m friends with some on Facebook, and I hope that some see my piece there. I know a lot of my former colleagues feel the same way I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. God bless the teachers…A lovely post, Pete 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 4, 2020 — 9:54 pm

      I agree, Carol. It’s the hardest and most rewarding job I ever had. They are doing their best under trying circumstances.

      Like

  8. You are a very good person, Pete, to be so interested in your students. I don’t think this is the same in cities, it is to difficult to keep tabs on children and families.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 5, 2020 — 1:36 pm

      You get so much back from your students. It was certainly a mutually beneficial situation. I call this some of the delayed rewards of teaching when I find out about students years later.

      Like

  9. What a beautiful post, Pete! It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, I’m sure your students appreciate you as much as you appreciate them. As I read this, it reminded me of the many great commencement speeches I’ve heard. You need to give this talk to an audience of graduating students!

    And I couldn’t agree more about how we never forget our students; one of my favorite things about LinkedIn is my ability to keep tabs on what my former students are up to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 5, 2020 — 1:40 pm

      LinkedIn is a good way to keep track of them too. I typically follow a bit more on Facebook, although I don’t want to creep any of my students out. I think most understand it is simply because I care about them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sure they feel honored that you have kept the connection going.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I had the privilege of teaching students as they left their teens and entered adulthood. I often think of them, even as I realize that some of them are now in their 60’s!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 5, 2020 — 4:03 pm

      I had dinner with one of my sixth-graders a couple of months ago. He’s now in his early forties. It’s such a kick for me to get together with them years later.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How did they get so old while we stayed the same age?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 3:12 pm

        🤣🤣🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Great advice, Pete. It is good to consider the contribution we can make to our communities. And I agree with you about the inability to stop thinking about our students.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 6, 2020 — 9:19 am

      I don’t know if this happened to you, Norah, but I had a hard time blocking it all out at the end of the day. Intuitively, I knew I could only do so much, but that didn’t prevent me from worrying and thinking, “How am I going to help this kid?” I coped better with that over time, but it was something that never went away completely. Now, it’s more like picking up a book you started long ago and get to enjoy the ending.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I still worry and wonder about some of the little children I taught and hope they are doing okay. I worked with a lot of children from dysfunctional families and in low-socioeconomic areas. I do hear some of the success stories of children I taught and absolutely love it when they contact me to tell me how they are going.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. What a beautiful letter to your students! When you care, students know it. That’s why they keep coming back to see you. Thank you, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 6, 2020 — 9:25 am

      We both know that students respond when they know someone cares. That’s the beauty of teaching. It is such a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship. Mostly, I want my students to be happy, live a full life, and carry the torch for the next generation. Haha! I don’t ask for much. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said, Pete! We definitely think (and teach) alike.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Very generous and illustrative of the the MO of teachers. Obviously not in it for the money, despite what foolish people say–not knowing how much time and effort is put in for little financial reward for such an important job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 6, 2020 — 3:02 pm

      It is always about the human connection for me, John. I think that’s why blogging is a natural fit for guys like me. One of the perks I have is that I live in the same town that I taught in for over thirty years, so I am constantly running into former students and their parents. One of the hardest habits for them to break is getting used to calling me Pete instead of Mr. Springer.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh Pete, what fantastic advice! I also think it’s so important for people to look after themselves – we’re told to put the oxygen mask on ourself first so that we can then help others. Iove the way you promote such a well-balanced and well-rounded approach to life. Toni

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 11:31 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Toni. I wouldn’t do many things differently in terms of my career, with one exception. I’d try to look out for myself as much as I did my students. As one of my teaching friends stated it best, “We can’t take care of them if we don’t take care of ourselves first.”

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What an inspiring letter to your former students! You show what a caring heart you have and that’s what makes teachers so special! They play such an important rule in a child’s life and I would say that your students are blessed to have had you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 11:34 am

      It cuts both ways, Joy. I have these amazing experiences where I’ll run into a former student twenty-five years later and learn about some fantastic thing he/she is doing. That is one of the best feelings in the world.

      Like

  16. What a lovely open letter to your students and students in general, Pete. And I’ll bet there are are bunch of students who never forget about the teachers who helped them fulfill their dreams. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 11:40 am

      You said a mouthful there, Diana. It all starts with a dream and a belief that nothing can get in the way of achieving those goals.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Your compassion for your students leaps off the page Pete. No doubt you will always think of these ‘once kids’, as you spent such a big chunk of your life around them. And you’re a caring person. They were lucky to have you and I’m sure they know it. I can remember two teachers that went beyond the call of duty with me, with their empathy. Teachers too leave indelible imprints. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 7, 2020 — 7:35 pm

      I have to laugh when I think about some of “my kids” now being in their forties. I’m sure they never quite knew what to make of me running around playing tag games with them. We always had PE at the end of the day, and because I was never known for being skinny, I’d often show up to a parent/teacher meeting, all lathered up in a sweat. Haha!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol Pete. I would have loved to have you as a teacher 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  18. What a lovely letter, Pete. Your students will think of you for the rest of their lives. However, I hope one teacher in particular quickly forgot about me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 8, 2020 — 9:33 am

      Haha! I’ve got a couple of teachers like that too.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. This is so true, Pete. Lovely letter. When I get together with retired faculty or even faculty still working, that’s what we talk about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 9, 2020 — 8:52 am

      I’ve always looked at teaching as an investment in the future. Sometimes the big payoff doesn’t come until several years down the line.

      Like

  20. This shows the heart of an engaged teacher♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 14, 2020 — 5:31 am

      As someone who mentored four student teachers, heart is the number one quality of any good teacher.

      Like

  21. Brimming with tears, I have teacher friends in real life who also care a great deal about their students. Even when they are no longer in the school setting. You share a great deal of wisdom. I appreciate your discussion about “success.” I loved everything about this post. We have had a few challenges around here this month. I am enjoying my day of catching up reading my favourite bloggers.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor December 19, 2020 — 10:16 pm

      There is nothing better than reconnecting with students I taught long ago and finding out what direction life took them. The photo above was pre-Covid, but we’ve had a couple of moments where one of our former students has walked into the restaurant where we were gathered. I wish I had a videocamera to recapture the expressions of surprise on their faces. It must have been like walking through a time warp for them. 🤣🤣🤣

      Like

  22. This is so nice- students never get to see all the hard work teachers put in. I have fond memories of a former/ favourite teacher. She really cared about her students and made a difference in my life (more than she could ever have known).

    Thanks for reading my blog!

    Like

    1. petespringerauthor December 22, 2020 — 4:38 pm

      Since I still live in the same city where I taught for thirty-one years, I always run into former students. It’s something that never gets old. (unlike me).

      No problem. I found your post interesting. By the way, I like your handle.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. this is wonderful Pete – and your definition of success is truly laden with wisdom and life seasoning

    What is success? That definition can vary from person to person. For me, success isn’t about having lots of money, though it does make things easier. It’s more about going after and achieving the things that you want out of life. I’m not talking about material things.

    oh so good
    and happy new year too

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor January 3, 2021 — 4:53 pm

      I think anytime that we can contribute something positive to the world, we should go for it. I’m impressed with celebrities (I’m just a regular guy) who use their fame to do something worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi – yes – I like when celebrities use their power to help as well. And quite often the rich and/or famous can be so tormented – or just have other issues outside of the norm – and so good for those that find ways to really make a difference – while the rest of us our
        Difference makers in other ways

        Liked by 1 person

  24. This was so heartfelt ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor March 6, 2021 — 8:43 am

      Thanks so much, Ayesha. Keep chasing your dreams, whatever they may be.

      Like

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