Monday, October 29, 2012

The 10 Year Letter Irony

I love it when good things happen to good people.  "Nice guys finish first", and in this case...5th.

We all know that I am a teacher right - actually I am an elementary school Principal now but once a teacher, always a teacher, no matter what your role.

In 2000, I left a corporate HR job in Toronto to move back to London to be a French/Phys-ed teacher at a school called Sir John A MacDonald PS.  I had no idea what I was doing but had a great admin team and colleagues to help me survive that first year. 

In 2001, I was asked to teach grade 7.  I once again had no idea what I was doing but really tried hard to focus on the kids and what they needed.  I spent a lot of time teaching French and Phys-ed since I knew how to do that and had my dad come a couple of times to do art lessons but the rest, I kind of sucked at.  It was an interesting year as 911 happened, the winter Olympics and a great deal of changes were happening at the school and in the community.  I had a tough but awesome group of students who pretty well ended up teaching me more than I taught them.

In January 2002, I had my class do an activity called the "10 Year Letter".  I had them write a letter to themselves that I would collect, keep, and then mail to them in the year 2012.  I had no idea if it would work or not but the kids did their best thinking about what they might be doing in 10 years.  I collected the letters and placed them safely in my basement where they remain to this day - a little covered in dust from our basement reno but still sealed and intact.

Well, guess what?  It has been 10 years so I must mail out the letters to the kids.  I went to my basement and retrieved the letters and was worried that the students might have moved and the letters would get lost in the mail.  So, I spent a great deal of time on the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook to track them down to ask for an updated address so I could send them their letters.  I got some wonderful responses and comments made about their memories of grade 7, our class, and me. 

One letter stood out though. 

It was written by a student in my class named Damian Warner.  He was the sweetest most quiet student I had ever taught.  He also was exceptionally athletic and won all the events at our annual track and field days plus came from a wonderful family. 

The reason why this letter stood out was because he had just recently returned from the summer Olympics in London.  Not as a spectator but as a competitor.  He had finished 5th in the decathlon and become a champion to all of Canada.  I could not believe that I had his letter and this was the year to send it to him.
Damian and our class celebrating the
2002 Winter Olympics - prediction or what!!
I shared my discovery with my friend Chris who is still a teacher at Sir John A who told me that they were going to have Damian come and speak to the school at an assembly.  Chris thought it would be a cool idea if I came and presented Damien's letter directly too him as a surprise.  Oh man, what a great idea, I was in!

I got Damian's letter ready and found some old photos from the class and then located the class yearbook.  I made a yearbook every year for my class and one of the things I would do is predict what I thought they would end up being as an adult.  Some people I predicted would be actors, writers or owners of motorcycles, but for Damian I predicted he would be a professional athlete - I thought a wrestler because in grade 7 he weight about 100 pounds but still, I knew he would fabulous!!  I also noticed that I had all the kids signed my copy of the year book so I laughed out loud to my husband saying I had the first Damian Warner autograph.

I brought the book and the letter to the school and had the opportunity to present them to Damian.  I recounted the fun times we had in grade 7, my prediction of him being in sports and then he opened the letter. 

You will not believe what it said....

Yep, you are reading correctly, he predicted he would be a "runner in the Olympics".  I started to bawl as I thought how cool that will be for his mom to see that he believed in himself and achieved such a lofty goal.  I could not be prouder of him as a Londoner, Canadian, but mostly as a graduate of Sir John A MacDonald PS.

Notice how tall he is now compared to the class photo
where I am a foot taller than him. 
This week I was thrilled when Damian was once again mentioned on our Board's web page and the impact he is having by telling his story to kids all over our district.  The story mentioned his letter and my opportunity to present it to him and there were a couple of photos included.  I always wanted to make it on our Board's website Spotlight section and was really delighted with this because it was for me as a teacher. 

Not often do you get to see your students and how they are doing 10+ years later.  Watching him at the Olympics this summer and cheering him on in the decathlon was extra special.  I am so happy that a little silly lesson I did with that class so long ago could bring some joy to him and his family.  It sure makes my week.

Follow Damian and his journey to the 2016 Olympics and on Twitter @DamianWarner - he is one special guy.