I have had the pleasure of following the same students throughout middle school for the last three years. The district in which I work has middle level counselors and principals rotate through the grades 6, 7 and 8 with one specific class of students.
There are a thousand benefits to this, and maybe the most beneficial is for the students to have an adult in the building who knows them and knows their family. I know every student in my class at this point (all 200-plus of them), and many of them well. This helps in multiple ways with teachers, with their families and with the students.
The only negative about following my kids for the last three years is now they are eighth graders and are heading to high school. So the children I knew three years ago as they entered middle school are now young adults about to have some of the best years of their lives.
I am thrilled for them. And I am brokenhearted for myself.
I wish I could write them each a letter telling them how excited I am for their future and how much I have loved spending these years with them. But I came to the conclusion that I couldn't write 225 letters. One would have to do.
So, here is my love letter to my students:
To My Amazing Student,
I have absolutely loved spending the last three years as your counselor. I have watched you develop from a scared, brand new sixth grader to a capable, interesting young adult ready to tackle high school.
I know the last three years haven't always been a picnic for you. I still remember middle school being the hardest three years of my life. (That's why I am a middle school counselor, after all.) There have been highs and lows, and you have included me in your moments, and I am grateful.
Do you remember when I helped you with your schedule? You REALLY didn't want THAT class or you desperately wanted in another one. Maybe it was because you wanted to be in class with your friends or because the class was too difficult. I always listened to you, even if I couldn't change your schedule. Thanks for telling me what was important to you.
Do you remember when you needed help with your school work? It was a tough assignment and you were a little embarrassed to ask for help. But you did. You asked me. And even though I didn't always know the answers, I loved that you asked me to help you. We both learned that two heads were better than one and we got through it. Together. Thank you for believing that I could help you.
Do you remember that time you came to me in tears about your broken heart? I hugged you and comforted you and dried your tears on my shoulder. My heart ached for your hurt, and I did my best to help you feel better. Thank you for trusting me with your sadness and letting me do my best to comfort you.
Do you remember the time you didn't feel well and asked me to see if your forehead was warm? Or that time you had a sore ankle or a sore throat and asked me if I thought you would be OK? I loved that you asked me to check on you. It made me feel a little bit like your school mom. I hope I helped put your mind at ease because I knew you would be OK.
Do you remember that ridiculous argument you got in with your friends about ... what was it again? I can't even remember anymore. But you didn't like fighting, so you came to me and I helped you through it. I tried my best to show you how to resolve your conflicts by working through them, not by duking it out or unfriending someone. Confrontation is uncomfortable and I appreciate you letting me guide you through it. It was awesome to watch you grow.
Do you remember that time you made a really terrible decision and had to pay the price? It hurt to watch you suffer the consequences of your choice, so I tried to soften the blow by talking to you about it. We discussed what you could have done different or what you could do to set things right. It brought me joy to watch you come to the realization that even though you messed up, you could learn from the experience.
Thank you for sharing it with me.
Do you remember when you shared a secret with me that you never told anyone? You opened your heart and spilled it out to me. As I listened to your words, my heart wanted nothing more to help you. And although it might not have always seemed like what I did helped you right then, I hope you realized that what I did helped you in the long run. It was never easy for me to ask other people to help you when I knew you might be scared. But I did it because of my great love for you. I hope you know my heart.
Do you remember when you accomplished your goal? I am still so extremely proud of you! When you made your achievement, you probably didn't realize that I was standing in the wings crying my own tears of joy. I know how hard you worked and what you had to sacrifice to make your dream come true. You couldn't believe you did it, but I wasn't surprised. I knew you could all along. Thank you for letting me cheer you along the way.
Do you remember when you lost your mom/dad/sibling/grandparent/someone special in your life? You were devastated and had to grapple with the real truth about life and death. You came face to face with your own mortality and you were scared. We talked about it and you allowed me to help you process through how you felt. You also weren't sure how you would face another day without him/her. But when I saw you each day and looked at you, I knew you were victorious in making it through another 24 hours. I was so proud of you. I could tell you didn't always want to talk about it, but our eye contact told me that you appreciated me just knowing. Thanks for that.
Do you remember when you thought you couldn't go on in life? When you felt hopeless and alone? I know it was too hard for you to tell me at first, but your wonderful friends told me you were in trouble. So we talked and talked. Then you were surrounded by people who truly loved you and cared about you and who could help you get better.
Some of my favorite moments were seeing you again after some time had passed. You looked at me and smiled. Your smile told me that even though you knew things wouldn't always be easy, you were prepared to work through them. You had hope in your heart again. I could see it in your eyes and in your smile. Thank you for not giving up on yourself. You are worth it.
I remember all of these times. And so much more from our time together. Sometimes you were surprised that I knew your name, but how could I forget YOU! You are special, wonderful, unique and most of all, loved. Thank you for letting me cry with you and laugh with you and tell you how great you are and what an amazing person you will become.
I am so proud of all that you have accomplished and so excited to see what the future has in store for you. If you ever think about me someday and wonder if I remember you, the answer is YES! You have made a giant impact on my life and I have learned so much from you and our time together. Never hesitate to tell me “hi” when you see me at the store or call me if you want to talk. Please stop in and visit me any time. I won't forget you. Because I care about you.
Good luck in high school. You are going to do amazing things.
Michelle Sutherlin is a NewsOK contributor and a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. For more articles about parents and middle school, check out her blog.
We're looking for
Are you passionate about a topic, an expert, a writer, a photographer, a story teller or maybe an artist looking for an audience? Do you want to make a difference?
We can help connect you to the topics, sources, coaching and community to help you publish in major media outlets like NewsOK and The Oklahoman. You provide trusted content, and Contributor Connect will help you get traffic.