To the powerful, kind, intelligent, lovely women I have had the pleasure of working with this summer:

As many of you know, this has been the hardest year of my life. I have shared with you about the passing of my Dad, my fears, my anxiety. I even shared with you (with tears in my eyes) how proud I know my Dad would have been of the work we did together this summer. I didn’t know if I should leave my home during such a treacherous time, but on this day I know it was absolutely worth it. Today you gave me such a precious gift- handwritten cards tied together in a beautiful book. There are not many people who make these kinds of gifts- the ones that take so much time and heart. These are the types of gifts I treasure, and the ones I used to make myself. Somewhere along the line, I lost a little bit of my heart. Today, I feel like it has been given back to me.

Your future students are so lucky to have you. You have left your families. You have left your high-paying jobs. You have left lives you could have had for a new life you are passionate about. Some of you have literally crossed mountains to be here for your students. They are so loved, and they do not even know it yet. What an amazing surprise they are in for.

I know how hard Summer Institute it, and it was not long ago that I was in your shoes. Your weeks have been full of sessions and lesson planning and students and reflection and feedback. You have had little time to sleep and pursue your other interests. Yet, you have come to work every single day with a smile on your face. Not only have you carried yourselves through this challenge, but you have carried each other. My tendency when I am stressed is to retreat, to preserve all my energy for myself. Instead, you have chosen to share it with each other. You have reminded me of the capacity we have as people to care for one another.

I have witnessed you transform students in one summer. As they entered your classroom they were shy, quiet, and unsure of what to expect. They left the last day with joy in their hearts and sadness in their eyes, they did not want to leave their beloved teachers. I watched students who acted out on the first day raise their hands and share the right answer. I watched students who failed to get the right answers to keep trying. I saw students take every last minute to try their hardest on assessments. I watched them come up to me and practice their Engish, with pride in their voice. I witnessed growth- in both you and your students. Your patience, behavior corrections, love, and positivity you brought to your classroom was incredibly impressive. You reminded me of why I believe that teaching is the most powerful weapon our world has to eradicate suffering and motivate youth to be global citizens. You are just beginning your journeys, and I feel like you have already been teaching for years.

On the last day, when we celebrated the students, I never would have known that you just went through an intensive training program. Students that were in school for the summer happily arrived even earlier than we did, to share one last day with their teachers. I know the kind of energy you created, as it cause me to dance in a classroom with students for two hours. I saw them hug you, I saw them inspired by you. What a beautiful thing you all have done.

As I prepare to return home- I am reflecting on everything you have taught me. So many of you have shared your culture with me, your reasons for teaching, and your insights. You have shared articles and stories and books to keep me learning about Vietnam even after I leave. You have modeled patience and perseverance and how to be energetic despite your long hours.

Thank you for this summer. I cannot wait to follow you on your journeys- I have all of the faith in the world in each and every one of you. Now- continue doing what you do best- motivating kids to reach their fullest potential. You have surely motivated and inspired me.

I will miss you dearly but hold these memories so close to my heart. Maybe see you next year? 🙂
-Nicole aka “Classroom Management Queen”

In The Summer Institute 2018