Every teacher has some of them: “thank you” notes from former students, the best both specific and heartfelt. One of the nicest gifts of middle age, and one ripened by time away from the classroom, is the occasional email from a student about an experience shared in class more than a decade ago. “Do you remember…” some begin, and in every case (no fibbing) I do.

Finding the bag of gold coins during Pirate Week…

Hitting the heavy bag during the unit on Muhammad Ali and The Iliad…

The day Sinatra died and the school flew the flags at half staff…

I appreciate every note more than I can put into words, not only for the memory of something done in class that stuck, but also for the name at the end of the email. My thirteen years in the classroom took me from the Columbia Gorge in Oregon to the Bay Area to Southern California, and I’m always surprised that a former student has found me across the miles.

That said, my surprise was even greater this morning when a thank you email came not from years and miles away, but from last week and here at Diegueño.

The note read:

Dear Mr. Paige,

Thank you for coming into my English class last Friday and doing a poetry lesson with us.  I really enjoyed it.  I loved learning about found poems and writing ones of our own.  I also loved all of the different activities we did with poetry.  It encouraged me to write another found poem. The page is from the book Son by Lois Lowry.”

Astounded, I read it twice.

photoFor anyone who believes that students today are jaded or unkind, for any critic of public education who espouses the notion that schools today are tucked into a downward descending hand basket, I offer this short missive and beautiful found poem as a counter argument.

Youth today, and the folks their parents’ ages who were my students a couple of decades ago, are more like that plant described in this young poet’s found poem.

On the cliff
Seeds had dropped
Into the rocky crevices
Sprouting now in this early spring
Stems reaching up
To the sun

Working with students for more than twenty years I have found, over and over again, inspiration, kindness, and profound hope for our future. And just as I get beautiful notes with the intermittent timing of shooting stars, I offer an ongoing and very real gratitude every day.

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