Why I’m Thankful I Got a D

Do you ever have those moments where you feel like you are supposed to write a letter to someone?  Maybe it’s a get well card for someone battling a nasty illness, a hello message for a friend I haven’t seen in ages, or a thank you card for a helpful neighbor.  I get those feelings quite often, but 99% of the time I just ignore them.  Maybe I can’t find the right kind of stationery, or if I could, I know I couldn’t find an address and a stamp.  I make really good excuses, and those really good notes go unwritten.

About a week ago I again had that feeling after reading the editor’s note in Real Simple magazine.  It was about thanking someone for a conversation that changed your life.  I immediately had a person in mind, but I began rationalizing that I would never find a way to contact her.  Well, a few Google searches later I had an e-mail address.  And I went for it…

Hello Mrs. Vaughan,

(I did some searching on Google and came up with this e-mail address. If you are not, in fact, the Mrs. Vaughan that used to teach at the Math & Science high school, please disregard this crazy note!)

This week the letter from the editor in a magazine that I read was about conversations that change your life. The author suggested that you write a letter to someone that influenced you through a conversation. So, here I am….almost 15 years later!

I have no idea if you’ll remember this, but you assigned us a paper to write about a Civil War novel. I hated history, hated the Civil War, and hated that I had to write a paper about something that I hated. : ) I didn’t actually finish the book, wrote the paper anyway, and promptly received a well deserved D.

I remember having to come to your room after school or during a free period to talk to you about it. I don’t actually recall the content of that conversation, but I clearly remember the outcome. You gave me a chance to rewrite it, and I decided to take you up on your offer. I stayed home from school to finish the dreaded book and write a much better second draft. When I received that paper back graded, I got an A. Not an A averaged with the D. Just an A.

Through that conversation, your encouragement, and your willingness to give me a second chance, I began to believe that I could actually write. Writing has actually grown to be something that I love to do….and I can pinpoint this assignment as the turning point for me. So…many years later, thank you.

I am teacher now too! This year I’ll be teaching math and science to 4th grade gifted students, but I’ve also taught 5th grade gifted students and fourth grade inclusion. This is the first summer I’ve had my kids home with me, and I started a blog to chronicle our summer adventures and misadventures. I guess this blog and the positive feedback I’m getting from friends on my writing is what made me think of you. If you’d like to check it out, the address is https://chicaandbubba.wordpress.com.

I hope that you are doing well. Thanks again for a life changing conversation all those years ago.  Tracy

I fired the e-mail off sometime after midnight and promptly forgot about it.  I never actually expected to hear anything back because the website where I found her address was several years old.  Well guess what!?  She wrote me back!

She is retired now and enjoying spending time with her grandchildren.  She said that she connected to many of the things I write about here because of her time with her grandkids.  My favorite thing she wrote was, “Your message did remind me of the power people, and teachers in particular, have to help or hurt.”  So. True.  I’m hoping I’m helping more than hurting with the kids I teach.  Maybe one day I’ll get a crazy random e-mail from one of them reminding me of something I can barely remember.

So how about you?  Do you have anybody you need to thank for a life changing conversation?  Even if that person may never read your letter, I think there’s value in reminding ourselves of the power that our words really have.

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