Letters — 21 May 2013 — by Mrs. Cassandra Munnings-Sabal

Dear Editor,

I am a teacher at Pallotti High School who was asked to write a letter addressing her Fourth Formers. I thought it was a good idea from our principal because teachers don’t usually write letters to students sharing their thoughts, appreciation and memories of their journey. I took the liberty to write one and I thought it would be a good idea for it to be read publicly. I do believe other fourth formers who read it may be encouraged as well. In the spirit of Teachers’ Week/Month, it would be an honor if this letter finds a space in your newspaper. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.

May 18th, 2013
Dear 4TH Formers,

ISAIAH 26:3 says, “People with their minds set on God are kept completely whole and steady on their feet because they keep at it and don’t quit.” Therefore I write this letter in hopes that it meets you in complete peace of mind, of body, of soul and in complete balance with God.

I am quite aware that you are slowly coming to the end of your time here at Pallotti and even though you might feel inclined to say “FINALLY!!” or “THANK GOODNESS!!!”, allow me to applaud you for your determination to persevere: for having remained focused and steady on your feet in order to have completed your four years of high school education.

We cannot say the same for some of your colleagues who were not steady on their feet and who allowed distractions to keep them from reaching the end. As you look around at your classmates who remained steady, I urge you to be your sisters’ keeper so that they may remain steadfast and focused on the goals that they aspire to achieve.

In August 2009 when you first entered Pallotti’s compound, I am sure reaching the end was only a distant hope in some of your hearts. However, what you don’t know is that when you entered Pallotti you made my hopes of becoming an educator not just a fleeting hope, but an assured career. I was hit with the harsh reality that teaching is no joke. That year I was officially made a teacher here and given all the responsibilities that came along with it. I was given a homeroom, a full work load and over 100 students to teach. For an entire year, my heart was in my throat every time I stepped into your classrooms. Perhaps just like you, I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing here!” or “I won’t survive a year with these rug- rats!”, followed by “Jesus, help me!” But, I had to put my game face on and get the job done.

In my first year, I had over a hundred pairs of goggle-eyed 12- and 13-year-olds looking at me every time I went to class. They expected to be taught, but more importantly, they hoped to high heaven that they would not be bored to death. I stared back into those eyes every day that year and even if I wanted to be lazy one class session, I just couldn’t disappoint you. I would have felt too guilty doing that to you because you were my babies – mine.

I can still remember some occurrences that prove that as a teacher, I had to be nurse, comedian, disciplinarian, role model, motivational speaker and the list continues. In this regard, I remember that Norma was so nervous on her first day of school that she vomited in the classroom, and Mrs. Palacio and I had to clean it up. I recall that out of the 100+ vocabulary words that I gave once, the one that Latwanda remembered the most was “insolent”: I wonder why…. I remember too Chenique and Nashley always having a joke about something when they were in 1H and while I wanted to laugh too, I had suppress my smile and be a disciplinarian.

I remember being impressed with Karina’s penmanship and wondering how come the others could not write like she did so that I would not have to decipher the hieroglyphics that were present in many papers. I remember too Susan’s first time here. I admired her poise and how feisty she was towards the students in her class. However, I discovered that we shared a mutual connection: she understood just how deep Six Tales of Shakespeare was at the time and we could have real discussions in class and get lost in the beauty of the text.

There is one memory of Danielle volunteering to demonstrate how to sweep a classroom for me as a part of my lesson on expository writing. Students like Dyander refused to speak English in class, while Kalifa, Marklyn and others were able to articulate themselves wonderfully both orally and on paper. Then of course, I remember Judith and Rhiannon’s blow-out performance in our rendition of Harriet’s Daughter for the Pallotti Drama Meet in 2010.

I can go on and on, and point out a memory for each person but that would take too long. I also cannot forget Lysandra, whose emerald eyes shone brightly in class. Her tranquil presence calmed the nervousness of my first day. That year she also gave me my first and last Christmas gift from a student. This showed her appreciation that cemented the fact that I was fulfilling my purpose as a teacher.

Nonetheless, the point I am trying to make is that all of you symbolize a milestone for me and I truly appreciate the choice you and your parents made to be here at PHS. Without realizing it, your choice helped a young teacher like me to master the craft of teaching and to master the ability to deal with all the stress and extra baggage that come with the profession.

When I think of you the graduates of 2013, I know that I will be able to take ownership in the four-year journey that we had together because trust me when I say that I was right here with you contemplating if I would indeed reach the four year mark. I am eternally grateful that you allowed me with all my dramatics to relate those books for your understanding in the simplest way possible and that you allowed me bring my basic, child-like games to teach a lesson.

Don’t think that I didn’t see a couple eye rolls, sensed those inside jokes or noticed when your postures would demonstrate that you were “through” with me and my dramatics, my games, my class work, and my scolding.

However, I look at you as living proof that teaching is a rewarding profession. I love you all and I hope that you remember us here at Pallotti. We will be rooting for your success. Likewise, we will be here with listening ears and suggestions to improve whatever challenge that may come your way. Know that troubles never last forever and if you feel like your former teachers won’t be able to help you, you have the Good Lord who is willing to carry your burdens if you let Him.

I think I have said too much and must close this letter. I wish you good luck with your future endeavors. Congratulations!

With pride and love,
Mrs. Cassandra Munnings-Sabal

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