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A Letter to My Favorite Student

Monday, October 24, 2016 by Anthony Barrett - ACE 22, Denver

Dear Student,

You have no idea how much I appreciate you and how much I love you. You can’t grasp it, because you don’t see what goes on between 3 p.m. and 8 a.m. 

  • You don’t see me pump my fist in an empty classroom at 5 p.m. when I see that you’ve used the word “delighted” where you would have used “happy" last year.
  • You don’t see me hunched over my computer at the kitchen table at 12:30 a.m. as I pore through pop songs to find examples of direct objects that will make you smile.
  • You don’t see me trying to hold back tears as I drive to school at 6:30 a.m. and think about how your parents are struggling so much with their own problems that they don’t have time for you.

Anthony Barrett Teaching as a Vocation ACE Teaching FellowsThis exhausts much of my time and energy, but I treasure every minute I spend thinking about you. This is exactly why I chose to be an ACE teacher. As former ACE teacher Iona Hughan said, "I deliberately chose not to have a nine-to-five job because I'd rather pursue a 24/7 vocation."

Please don’t feel guilty about taking up so much of my time. I absolutely love focusing on how to brighten your day (and your future)! And I certainly do spend time on other things:

  • My housemates and I take turns making dinners and driving to restaurants around Denver. I’m much better at teaching than I am at cooking.
  • We usually get together with the Notre Dame Club of Denver to watch the Irish play football on Saturdays. Every time I see them lose, I grimace because I know you’ll bring it up on Monday.
  • Sometimes when I’m the only one awake, I’ll paint or play some songs on my piano keyboard (with headphones in, of course). I’m still learning, but the practice certainly helped when I had to sub for music class last year!

Despite how busy life can be as a teacher, there always seems to be a few extra hours for fun here and there.

But of course, the best part of my day is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., when I get to share the day with you and 77 of your classmates:

  • I love greeting you as you smile your way through the door: “Good morning! Happy Monday!”
  • I love watching you work through the vocab doodles I’ve drawn for your class. The sentences that you and your friends create range from amusing to alarming to astounding.
  • I love that you invite me to play basketball with your group at recess. Even though recess is your one break from teachers, you choose to spend it with us anyways. That’s awesome!
  • I love seeing you high five the first-graders as they pass by in line. Even though you have so many of your own problems to worry about (after all, you’re a middle-schooler), you make an effort to brighten others’ days.

Anthony Barrett ACE 22 Letter to My Favorite TeacherThere is so much goodness that happens between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sure, the academics are hard (for you and me, both!), but that’s how we help you prepare for high school, college, and the Real World. And everything else—the handshakes, the hugs, the time you brought a pomegranate to school for me because you thought it was an apple—that’s how we help you prepare for heaven.

Soon, you will graduate and you will no longer be my student. The 32 eighth-graders from last year have already made that transition. In celebration of the time we spent together, I wrote each of them a personal letter at graduation. I’ll write one for you, too, when you graduate. But a letter hardly captures the immensity of what happens over the course of one or two or three years together.

I know that I have left a mark on you that shines brighter and lasts longer than a letter:

  • You told me, “Mr. Barrett, you’re the one adult who’s never shouted at me. So… thanks for that.”
  • You and your friend had a beautiful talk with me about why you would try your hardest in school and why you would strive to be the best people you could be—inside and outside of school.
  • When my grandparents visited, you told them, “Mr. Barrett taught us that even if we fail, we can keep trying and keep getting better.”

And you should know that you and your classmates have marked me in return:

  • I have heard every variant of “What are those?!” and I think it’s normal for people to dab when they sneeze.
  • I smile more readily, and I sympathize and empathize with strangers more frequently.
  • I value my life more fully, knowing how privileged I am to be in a position to share my wealth (of time, knowledge, and character) with you.

You have each deeply and profoundly expanded my capacities for faith, hope, and love. I wish I could express how much I appreciate you and how much I love you, but a letter hardly does that justice. That’s why I’ll be smiling at the front door tomorrow at 8 a.m., ready to wish you “Happy Tuesday!” and delighted to accept your pomegranate.

Until Tomorrow,

Mr. Barrett