You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
II Corinthians 3:2 (English Standard Version)
It’s like a high school version of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. “If you teach all the eleventh graders English–and both they and you do a reasonably good job, and still like one another when a year is up–most of them will ask you to write college letters of recommendation the next fall.”
It’s an honor, really. I know–when they ask me politely in the halls, or send me frantic emails late at night–that students ask for recommendations from the teachers who know them best. I don’t take for granted, ever, the eagerness with which they’ve already shared so much of themselves in the context of dozens of pages of English essays, hundreds of hours of class together. I especially loved the inquisitive, straightforward depth of these students in the Class of 2013, now wading into the unknowns of The Future, lurking in misty capitals only nine months away. I’ll miss them, and while the luminous, official language of letters of recommendation doesn’t seem personal enough, it’s the least I can to send them on with a few glowing words to reflect their quality as students and human beings.
It’s these letters I’m thinking of this September Saturday, as I grade the first essays of the year. My new students, whose faces and names connect now, express their beliefs in varied terms, relying heavily on history, experience or Scripture to justify these ways in which they see the world. I don’t know them yet, I realize, but I will. Though they’re a different class, these reflections bear a family resemblance to the ones I read a year ago. They are the assertions of self-assured nomads, young people with optimistic and energetic hopes to change the world, most of them rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. Like an incoming college freshman, finding common interests on his new roommate’s Facebook page, I get excited as I read, eager to understand them, these people who fill my days.
For these new students, I’ll keep reading. For the others, I’ll keep writing. Either way, I am honored and sobered by the responsibility of teaching, the privilege of sharing, even for a short time, in their journeys to Christ-honoring adulthood.