I believe that kind and encouraging words from a teacher can truly change a student’s life. I have been fortunate to have had many wonderful teachers through the years. Each of these teachers has had an impact on my life, but one in particular is a constant reminder of this belief, Ms Hill, my third grade teacher. She gave me one of my most prized possessions. It didn’t cost her a thing, but it made such an impact on me that I have carried it with me since the day I received it.
On the last day of third grade, each student in Ms Hill’s class received a letter. The letter was just a form letter that she had probably been using since she started her teaching career. What made these letters special was the personal note she added to each student’s letter. I remember my eyes welling up with tears when I first read the note. I still get teary-eyed when reading the letter today. Her words, filled with kindness and love seemed to say the one thing that I would need to hear time and time again.
I was a very shy child. I was so quiet that other students often asked me if I knew how to talk. I hated it. I hated being shy. I always felt like there was something wrong with me, but in her note, Ms Hill assured me that I was ok. She almost made me feel like I was better for being quiet. Her words gave me a new way of looking at things. Maybe being quiet was ok…even good. I don’t want to give the impression that she was encouraging me to stay quiet at all times. She made it clear that I needed to speak up when I needed to and to have confidence to stand up for my ideas and myself if needed.
I am 35 years old now, and there are still times when that shy little third grader is fighting to come out. When that happens, I close my eyes and picture these words that were so lovingly written back in 1982:
“My quiet little Chelsea with the cute little giggle. Don’t ever be disturbed because you are quiet. Remember, truly great people only speak when they have something to say. Just remember, when you have something to say, say it! And always speak up when needed to defend your ideas or your honor. I will always remember you.”
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