A teacher to her students: 'What I need you to know is that I value you' - Macleans.ca

A teacher to her students: ‘What I need you to know is that I value you’

The Before You Go series: A teacher imparts advice to her students—past, present and future—and tells them how they changed her life

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Teacher Meaghan Thompson (backrow second from right) with her Grade 6 "classroom family" at St. Margaret's School in Victoria.
Teacher Meaghan Thompson (backrow second from right) with her Grade 6 “classroom family” at St. Margaret’s School in Victoria.

Meaghan Thompson is a middle-school teacher in Victoria, B.C.

To my students—past, present and future:

I spent many days in my life wondering what my purpose was, and more importantly, what I would equate to. I wondered what I would do with my life. How would I spend my days? And ultimately, in the end—would it all matter?

I grew up with a family of teachers, even if they weren’t educators by trade; my entire childhood, I was surrounded by people who believed in creating opportunities for others, people who saw potential in me, who made me believe in myself, and who exhibited qualities I dreamed to one day acquire. A resilient mother who acted always with good intention and radiated happiness wherever she went. A strong father who sacrificed so much in order to provide for those he loved, always putting them above himself. Two older brothers who acted always with good intentions, fighting hard for what they believed in.

All I ever wanted was what they had—a life I loved.

My decision to become a teacher was solidified after a trip during my final year of high school. At 18, I travelled to Peru, 6,500 km away from home. It was there that I first experienced the selfless acts and innocence of children, the curiosity they held, and the wonder they instilled within me. I returned home to attend university, ultimately sparking my journey to all of you.

As I reflect back on my many experiences and adventures, I often think I was naive to the world I was entering. I have spent countless hours sitting through interviews and meetings hearing about the wonderful things I was doing—the ways in which I gave you confidence, instilled in you values, and challenged you to be the best version of yourselves.

But it never felt quite right. The truth is, you did all those things and more—but for me.

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Through my work as a middle-school teacher and a house parent, each and every one of you has questioned me, right down to my core. You have asked me important things I didn’t once consider previous to our many meetings. You have challenged me to think outside the box, to see multiple perspectives, and to listen, always with my whole heart. And most importantly, every single day when I have come into work, you have shown up. You have shown me sides of you I didn’t know existed, expressed emotions and explored ideas, and embodied what it means to be a human being.

Over the years, I have watched you grow and flourish into beautiful young people. I have watched you struggle with decisions, with relationships, and with yourselves. For so many of you, I have been privileged to watch a coming of self—a true realization of acceptance and self-love. For others, I know your time will come as you explore who you are, what matters to you, and the world. Know that you, like so many of the ones that came before you and so many of the ones that will come after you, are worthy of finding a life you love.

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Know that for some of you, you will find that in a backpack, with your few belongings packed tightly away and adventure calling your name. Though you will travel near and far, know you will always carry with you an understanding of humanity and a desire to seek empathy.

Know that for others, you will find that through your efforts to become allies and fight for the rights of the marginalized, and you will come to believe in the capacity of other youths within your own communities.

And know that for others still, you will find that in your ideas, your art, and your words. Know that all those things are an accumulation of you, and that they all have the power to change the world.

When I think of you all, over the course of my career, memories overcome me and a smile lights up my face. I think of the times so many of you left your countries, your family, your life, all in search of a better education and a true investment in yourself. I think of those of you who were leaders, solution seekers, change-makers. I think of the worries you shared, the adversity you showed, the love you gave. I think of how lucky I am to work in a profession where everyday my students give selflessly of themselves—to share ideas, to help others, and to ultimately make the world a better place.

And what I need you to know is that I value you, and that within you all, I see limitless potential.

May you always know you are strong, capable, and loved. May you believe it is in each and every one of you that I see a better future for the people I love and this beautiful world we live in.

And finally, may you forever know it was you who gave me the life I have always wanted—one I love.

Signing off with love and gratitude,

Your teacher

This essay is part of the Before You Go series, which collects unique, heartfelt letters from Canadians taking the time to say “Thanks, I love you,” to the people they care for, before they go. If you would like to see your own letters or reflections published, send us an email here.