This is the letter I printed in the program for my last choir concert (tonight):
Dear Nieman Families,
Often, I write to avoid speaking, and ultimately, crying, in front of people. The kids know that I am sensitive and emotional when it comes to how they have changed my life, and it is not something I am ashamed of. So, though I will try this as a deterrent, I am positive that tonight, the tears will eventually come.
When I joined the great Nieman staff five years ago, I seriously thought I would retire here. That is how much I immediately loved this job. That has not changed, but rather, my life is quite different. I realized that now is the time to make the dreams that I had as a child finally come true.
I normally let the children vote on their concert music, but I insisted on the final song. While the general ideas of the piece are applicable—childhood dreams and lasting connections—the third verse is what hit me as I listened to it for the millionth time last fall. “Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices? I’ve heard them calling my name. Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors? The voice might be one and the same. I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it; it’s something that I’m supposed to be.”
After every performance, I try to say, “Your kids are amazing.” This is an understatement, but I think you know that. When I came to Nieman, many of them were in kindergarten, first grade or second grade. I have had the privilege to watch them grow into wonderful individuals, a process that will continue for many years. A process that I am sorry to miss.
If you peeked into my classroom, you might be fooled into thinking that the students are the only learners, when in fact, I am the one who has learned the most from them. It has been an honor to be invited into your lives for the last five years. I will miss you all but I am confident that someday we will connect again.