#Why I Teach: Notes from Alumni

Posted on November 18, 2020


A lot of the time in teaching, we’re just planting seeds. Day after day, we say things to remind our students of the humanity of every single earthling, and that all humans deserve human rights and decent lives.

Sometimes, a seed sprouts, grows, and blooms–and then writes to tell us about it on social media–years and years later.

I recently received a note from a former student, and I found it so moving, so inspiring, so encouraging, that I wanted to turn it into a found poem and post it here, so that when I, or other teachers, get discouraged, we will remember that we’re planting seeds, and we don’t know if or when they’ll germinate–but our concern is to plant the seeds with great care and faithfully tend them.

They did not give me permission to share their ideas or identity, but I want to honor and thank them here for taking the time to send the note. It shined a light in darkness and sparked hope. I will treasure it, and place it here with care, like a seed, so that when I, or others, need to remember #WhyITeach, we can come here and find a little light in darkness, a little warmth in a cold season. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Be well, friend. Take care.

A Note From A Former Student

2 November 2020

Hi, I don’t know if you remember me at all.

And honestly, it’s fine if you don’t.

I was a horrible student while I was in your class.

I just wanted to say thank you

for the lessons you taught me.

I was a deeply conservative

(racist, homophobic, misogynistic) person

because that’s the way I was raised.

Your class was truly the first place

I was challenged

to look at my privilege

and place in the world.

While I didn’t think about it a lot then,

I do think about it all the time now.

Thank you for being one of the best teachers I have ever had,

not only in teaching me about the subject,

but just making me a better person.

I have a long way to go,

but I have you to thank in starting me on the path.

I truly can not thank you enough

for showing me my privilege

and helping me understand

how to use it

to benefit those around me.

I think about leaving FB all the time, and I really limit my time there, but notes like this one keep me on there. For all its ills, FB makes it so easy for someone to just “pop in” and say something deeply meaningful that can inspire and encourage me like nothing else. It happens several times per year, and sometimes it sparks renewed contact, but not always. The content of these notes is often the same or similar to that of the found poem; the poem expresses what many have shared. I hate to say it, but here I am, appreciating FB–because it allows me to see the fruits of my labor and make important human connections with people I love.

As a woman without grandchildren, my immortality projects are teaching and writing, and a note like this former student’s makes me think, “It is a good day to die.” I am grateful to know what has become of seeds I planted.


lisa eddy is a writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com