The Feller that My Mother Thinks I Am (and the teacher, too!)

At the end of every school year, I ask my 7th graders to sit in their 7th grade chairs one last time to write letters… to the people who will be sitting in those chairs come September.  This past June was no exception.  My kids wrote pages and pages of advice, warnings, and words of wisdom.  “Tell next year’s kids what to expect,” I told them.

And so they did…right down to the coolest field trip (National Poetry Month flash mob at the mall!) and what not to try and get away with (texting during class, not reading).   They talked a little about what this year’s students should expect from their new teachers, too. I compile all the letters into one big letter that I’ll share with this year’s 7th graders tomorrow, on their first day of school.

But I have to confess…I pulled one of those June letters from the pile, highlighted a paragraph, and tucked into my desk drawer.  It said this:

Mrs. Messner never gets mad.  She is really just always all about books and joy.

Back in June, that letter made me cry…because I don’t always feel like that teacher.

Like most people, I get frustrated once in a while… when kids don’t do homework or when parents aren’t supportive…or when state regulations on standardized testing make me want to scream. But I’d really like to be that teacher that Savannah described in her letter.  All about the books and the joy.

Finding that letter was such a good reminder today, as I came out of a meeting with guidance and the 6th grade teachers about all the challenges that will be presented with this year’s crew. But not just challenges… opportunities, too

It all reminded me of that old poem…I couldn’t even find the author online, but it’s called “The Feller’ that your Mother Thinks You Are.”


While walking down a crowded street one day,
I heard a little urchin to his comrade turn and say:
“Say, Jimmie, let me tell you, I’d be happy as a clam
If I only was the feller that my mother thinks I am.”

“She thinks I am a wonder and she knows her little lad
Would never mix with nothing that is ugly, mean or bad.
Oh, lots of times I sit and think how nice ‘twould be,
gee whiz,
If a feller was the feller that his mother thinks he is.

My friends, be yours a life of pain, or undiluted joy,
You still my learn a lesson from this small unlettered boy.
Don’t try to be an earthly saint with eyes fixed on a star;
Just try to be the feller that your mother thinks you are.

I’m not always that perfectly patient, serene teacher that my student remembered on the last day of school.  But I’d like to be.

I don’t need a polished apple or a shining silver star
I’d rather be remembered for asking how you are.
You may strive to be a teacher whose kids ace each state exam.
I’ll just try to be the teacher that Savannah thinks I am.