Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Good Use of Paper

There is a false bottom in the lower drawer of my desk. In that hideaway, I keep the one thing that keeps me coming back to work each August.

It's a short stack of envelopes filled with letters written to me by graduating Seniors.

Each year, I receive a few more and I add them to the stack. And each Graduation Day at roughly this time -- just before 11 in the morning -- I go back and re-read each of those letters.

I will not be so presumptuous as to divulge any of the content of what those letters contain. But I will say this: without those letters, I would have given up teaching long ago.

A lot of folks don't realize just what teachers go through over the course of an academic year. And though all teachers are different, I can say that in my case -- by the end of it all -- I am run down to the core. I am a man with exposed nerve endings. I am a sleepless and exhausted fool. I've got nothing left. I usually need a month just to recover lost sleep and brutally crushed synapses.

And it's just not worth it...

but for the letters.


Not that many students follow this blog, but for the couple that may, here's what I've got to say to you:

Thank you. I apologize that too often we teachers get caught up with other things going on and it takes us until the end of the year to finally get around to saying it, but: thank you.

Your letters inspire me. Your letters create for me a compendium of memory. And your letters help me realize that you do not need me around anymore. And that's the best thing for which a teacher can hope.


Nice use of paper, letters are. Sure better than hundreds of copies of a PowerPoint handed out at a faculty meeting. Sure better than thousands of multi-paged multiple choice tests.

Letters. The Roman statesman Cicero once said that life would mean nothing if not for the light of literature. And for me that means letters. Because those letters stuffed away in that desk drawer produce enough light to keep me going each year. Without them, most certainly, I would be lost in the darkness of an empty classroom.


  1. this is beautifully expressed. Its true, as teachers, the best we can hope for is that our students dont need us anymore. A beneficient version of planned obsolescence.

  2. We were on the same wavelength today. Check out my blog post on graduation.


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