27 June 2019

A Letter From Middle School

by Brian Thornton

As I've written before, my day gig is teaching middle school history. As a middle school teacher (or as a public school teacher at any level, for that matter), I can attest to the importance of the month of June as both a signpost and a destination: a door into another year, another phase of life.

This is especially true for kids moving from middle to high school.

This year the mother of one of my students informed me that every year since her son was in kindergarten she had asked his teacher to write a letter to him at the end of the year. This year he had SIX different teachers (remember, it's middle school): and she chose to ask me because he had told her many times that I was his favorite teacher.


Of course I said yes. No small obligation, because (as any teacher can tell you, the end of the school year is BUSY!

I've posted what I came up with below. Not least because we live in a cynical age, and I find the people I work with, the current generation currently coming into their late teens so heartening to be around. I honestly believe these kids are going to save the planet.

Dear XXXX-

I was honored when your mom told me about your family’s tradition of having a teacher write you a letter for every year of school in your life, and asked that I write this year's letter. Not surprising, I guess, that a history teacher would have an appreciation for tradition, right?

One of the reasons I so enjoy teaching 8th grade is that I get to meet young people on the cusp of adulthood–literally in the act of becoming who they are going to be for the rest of their lives. And I am so happy to have met YOU this year. You, Mr. XXXX, are a fine young man. And it has been my pleasure and my honor to serve as your teacher.

You have so much great stuff ahead of you–not just high school, but your entire life–just remember that this journey you’re on is a marathon (the race, not the Greco-Roman battle! HA! Ancient History joke!), not a sprint, and it’s very important that you take a moment every now and again to look around and take it all in. The memories you make this summer, and in high school, will stay with you, and inform and influence the choices you make and the paths you take in the years to come.

With that in mind, try to surround yourself with good people. We meet all kinds of folks in life- those who fill you up? Try to keep them around. Those who wear you out? Let them go. You’re possessed of a giving nature and a good heart, XXXX- and you deserve to get that back from the people in your life.

Most of all, please remember to be as good to yourself as you are to others. And like I said before, take the time to enjoy this life while you’re living it!

Nearly lastly, please thank your parents for me. First, for sending you to us here at XXXXXXXX, and second for asking that I write you this letter.

And lastly, THANK YOU for everything you’ve done this year. I always end the school year feeling as if my students have taught me more than I have them. After all these years I am still so very grateful for the education. 

I am a better person for having known you, XXXX. Thanks for being one of the people who “filled me up” this year!

No longer your teacher, so I’ll just close this as-

Your Friend-

Brian Thornton


That's it for now. See you all in two weeks!


  1. Sheesh, Brian. This article should come with a raw-onions-n-pepper warning label. Very touching Brian, and it hints at what a great teacher you are. And what a mother, Mrs. XXXX. She deserves many Wows.

  2. A very touching post, Brian. I had some teachers I really liked and who left a lasting impression on me. But what a nice thing to do and it should make you feel really good that XXX's mother came to you and asked for that letter.

  3. Wish I had a tearcher like you for 8th grade. The nun who taught me belived in focusing on the negatives. I barely made it out of there. A real bummer. Cool letter.

  4. What a nice letter!

    Middle school teachers are among the real heroes of the profession.

  5. Wish you'd been my teacher back in middle school. Wow. What a letter to read regularly, to keep you going through life. Congratulations on being the best.


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