I received this message from a former student last year. I didn’t want to share it until now. I reached back out to the former student today to ask for their permission to share it because every once in a while we have to go unscripted, we have to put the curriculum aside and let our guard down and show the human side.

Hey Mr. Eagles,

You probably don’t remember me but I was in your fourth period class on September 11, 2001.

There are a few things that immediately come to mind when I think of that day… any much of it is from your classroom. I didn’t yet know about the events of that morning… times were certainly different then. I didn’t go home for lunch and had hung out with my regular friends at our regular spot during lunch. But I remember in your class, as we were taking our seats, two kids behind me were talking about planes flying into the world trade centre. And then one next to me chimed in about the Pentagon. I thought they were talking about an action movie I hadn’t seen yet. And then you took the front of the class and your face made it clear before any words were spoken that my peers weren’t talking about a movie. A lot of that day is quite vivid but I want to thank you for talking to us like adults that day. And having an open forum and letting us just be a community in that room where all our voices mattered. I’ve always appreciated that.

I’ve checked in with your blogs from time to time. Not sure how I came across it but obviously today your name came up in the quote about Yannic from the NHL. Which brought to mind how I was just talking to someone the other day recounting “where were you on 9/11” type convo. And then I found a blog you wrote about 9/11.

The kids in that classroom definitely learned that day. We grew up together in that classroom about some dark realities that were foreign to us. But we learned that our voices and opinions mattered. Our questions weren’t stupid or dismissed. It was a very coming of age moment for all of us in those four walls. Whatever our social differences, we were all curious and nervous and scared. And that was ok, because you made it ok for us. All credit to you man. I hope all is well.”

This is what I wrote in return.

“Thank you so much for reaching out, I hope all is well,

First of all thank you so much for your kind words and message they truly mean the world to me.”

“As a first year teacher, I often wondered if any of my messages or methods got across the right way”

“Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out and send such an amazingly heartfelt message.”

The former student then sent this,

I’m happy to get the message to you. I think it’s important to share those moments when you’ve had them.

“I don’t think any amount of education can prepare you to go over real time tragedy with a bunch of teenagers. So that day you were a human being first and foremost. That’s what we needed and I’m glad we had that.”

Words can’t express what it meant to receive a message like that. From this point on every time I have a “real” conversation with my classes I’ll think of this message. I always want to create a safe and positive environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

I’ve shared the blog/article the former student refers to in their message with every class in every subject area on September 11, because it’s so important to remember the events of that day, so we never ever forget.

Sometimes the best conversations are the ones that are “real, unscripted and from the heart.

Here’s to all the teachers keeping it real out there, you never know the impact that our words will have in the present and future.

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