Dear Parents,

It has taken me way too long to write this to you. Honestly, I know I should have weeks ago when the school year started, but as they say, I wanted to “hit the ground running.” As the year has progressed, I wanted to take a couple of minutes of your time.

As your child’s teacher, I must tell you I lose a lot of sleep at night. I worry if I can reach every child in the allotted time and whether my lesson was engaging and made sense. While I hope that each lesson is as exciting as I plan it to be, more often than not the blank stares let me know that the versions of the children in my head when I’m planning aren’t the same ones that show up to my class.

But that’s ok. You should know I’m quick on my feet – I embody the true meaning of teaching being a “practice.” I could spend more than the 90 minutes I have with your child on English because I love reading! I’m an avid reader and I know that literacy and education have been what pulled me out of poverty. My parents weren’t high school graduates until I was an adult, so I understand more than you can imagine.

I hope you know that although you love your child more than anything, I want the best for them too. That’s why I show up when I’m sick, I show up when I’m exhausted and I show up when my spirit is low. Teaching 100+ students a day can be draining – I give parts of me to each one – each child is a unique individual, needing a different thing. In my classroom, I teach more than reading strategies; I teach life lessons, connecting the text to the real world while trying to connect to my students.

When they sometimes come to school angry because of something that has happened at home, I’m usually the one they take it out on. I become more than their teacher, helping them to see that whatever correction you gave was in love and the adherence to that correction is the best thing they can offer you. I’m a comforter and team player – I know that we can do great things together!

And that’s why I want to apologize for not calling to tell you of the great things that your child has done. Many times, when you hear my voice, it’s a “bad report.” I’m sure you dislike receiving these calls as much as I hate making them. I wonder about whether you think I can’t handle my class, or that I’m being too hard on them. One could argue that I am.

Many of my students, your babies, are below grade level and not competing on a local or national scale. They have a desire to do well, but for many reasons, haven’t been provided an adequate foundation to succeed. I apologize for the teachers who have failed you in the past – it infuriates me as well! This is why I overcompensate for what they have lacked. I try to cram in foundational skills and grade-level content, knowing time is against us in this race. Your child may call me intense but fun, straight-forward and rigid. I know it can be overwhelming to learn so much in a day; therefore, I apologize in advance for the heavy sighs that come after the mention of my name.

In all of that, I promise to give my very best to your child each and every day – even if that takes away from what I give my own. Teaching is not just my profession. It’s my calling and I have calculated the risk and understand the sacrifice that my own daughter makes so that I can be so much to so many. I’m not asking for your sympathy – just think of that when you’re upset about summers off and extended breaks – it’s the only time I really get to spend uninterrupted with my own child.

Lastly, I’d like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to teach your most prized possession. Thank you for sharing your child’s light with me for the time they are in my classroom. Thank you for being a partner in this educational journey. I promise to never take for granted the responsibility bestowed upon me.

Parents, I need you more than you think. If I hadn’t said it before – I’m saying it now. We’re gonna make the impossible possible! Together, we can do more than we ever could apart!

With all my best,

Your Child’s Teacher.

This post was written by Marlena Little and originally ran on the Memphis K12 Education Blog.