The Whiteboard

"We Regret to Inform You..."

A rejection letter challenges a teacher to write a list, leading him to a new attitude about time in the classroom.

I sat anxiously at my dining room table staring at a sealed envelope. This was no ordinary envelope. It contained the results of a competition that I, along with several other teachers, had entered. If I won, I would receive a sizable cash gift along with some welcomed notoriety. Consequently, the school where I teach would receive positive recognition as well. I began to tear open the envelope. As I unfolded the letter, my hands trembled with anticipation. I could see it now, the cash, the publicity for my school, and the recognition for myself. I could already see my name up on the school marquee.

The letter started by thanking me for entering the contest. It then explained the struggle the committee experienced when determining the winners. My eyes scanned down the page and then came to a screeching halt on those dreadful words I feared most, “We regret to inform you...”

I am still not sure what the letter said after that because my heart sank into my toes. I remember staring out the window for what seemed like hours. My thoughts started to turn from glory to gloom. Then, the thoughts got ugly.

I deserved to win.

There I sat, arguing my case before the potted plants lining the window sill. I ranted about the large sum of money I had spent on supplementary curriculum material, project supplies, and student awards. I added the long hours and energies spent designing detailed, imaginative lesson plans to my argument. I continued to plead my case to those unflappable house plants, complaining about all the nights I had to be away from my family to supervise student sporting events or activities. The list went on and on and on.

When I finished my arguments, the houseplants had little to say and were not the least bit impressed.

It was then that I heard it, not with my ears, but in my heart—a simple but serious question. Why did you choose to become a teacher?

My eyes began to well up with tears of conviction because I knew in my heart that I had not become a teacher for personal fame or glory. I did not have to ask from whom this direct question originated. I knew that God was asking the question, and that He deserved an honest answer.

I sat in my chair while thoughts began swirling about in my mind. Then, I did the only thing I knew to do—I started to write out a list of the reasons I had become a teacher. The list went on and on and on. As I wrote, I felt as if each item I listed quickly dissolved each argument from my prior ranting session.

Even to this day, that list of reasons still positively affects my attitude about the profession I love. Not every day is perfect; however, I now find true enjoyment and fulfillment in teaching.

So, if you are in need of a jolt of rejuvenation this school year, writing your own “list” might be the boost you need.

Edward Tooley has been in education for almost four decades. He has published numerous articles along with two books for children.


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