A Teacher’s Prayer

At the end of this week, I’m leaving Westminster, my school of 23 years to pursue a phenomenal opportunity for my family and me at the Hawken School in Cleveland, OH.  As you can imagine, my farewells this past week and now into my last have been both bitter and sweet.  In an attempt to craft a fitting acknowledgement for the gratitude and respect for all I have learned here, I penned a Teacher’s Prayer inspired by a prayer accredited to and adapted by Mother Teresa.  I hope you find something of value in it.


A Teacher’s Prayer

My students are often scared they’re not going to understand.  They fear failure and disappointment.  Even when they hold back, help me continue to encourage and challenge them anyway.

Sometimes my students don’t do all they can to maximize their learning.  Help me continue to meet them where they are anyway.

Some of my students don’t care for my classes’ content and my lessons might not be well received. Help me continue to be passionate about every moment anyway.

Students sometimes ask questions I believe have already been answered. Help me continue to always address them with deep respect anyway.

Sometimes none of the explanations I know make an idea stick.  Even when I already may have offered enough, help me continue to graciously find another approach anyway.

If my lessons break free from where I’ve planned, some may not be able to keep up, and others may outrun me or even catch me in a mistake.  Help me continue to always take chances and run with them anyway.

Even when I think I know every connection and approach a student might offer, help me continue to listen to every “new” idea as if it were the best insight any person has ever made, because to the one brave enough to share, it was.

New technologies and teaching ideas threaten how and what I teach; new tools may force me to redevelop or abandon favorite lessons I’ve spent years perfecting.  But a new idea also may be just what I need to reach someone who’s been beyond my grasp, so help me continue to embrace innovation anyway.

I sometimes despair I won’t be able to reach the ambitious goals I set for my students or me.  Even though I will sometimes fall short, help me continue to be ambitious anyway.

Grant me strength to give more than I think I have, determination to overcome what I didn’t think I could achieve, a love deeper than I believe exists, a hunger to make the world a better place even if only in a small way and against all odds, grace to learn from my inevitable mistakes, and courage to never fear growth.  After all, that’s what we’ve always asked of our students anyway.  Amen.

Wolakota, Chris


I leave you with a favorite song:  Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance.

5 responses to “A Teacher’s Prayer

  1. Marjorie Mitchell

    Chris, I know you already know this, but carry with you as you journey forth the knowledge that you did all of the above daily within our community; and for these blessings and your warm and loving spirit, you will be deeply missed.

  2. Dr. Harrow, I’d heard whispers about you when I began high school. Praise about a genius, a true math and learning enthusiast. I had no clue who you were but I’d walk past you in the hall probably once a day in Campbell until junior year. This year, I have truly struggled. Sadly, math does not come easily to me. But every time I walked in your class you always greeted me with a smile. Every test, every quiz, every math question I asked was always explained in extreme detail, with multiple ways to solve the problem, making sure that I got the core concept, not just that I memorized a particular formula. Even at 1 AM as I’m writing this after finally having finished studying for your exam, I’m realizing what a wonderful teacher you are. You are the only teacher I’ve ever met that’s been so sympathetic to the hardships of high school, especially junior year. You are so passionate about math that it shows in your corny jokes but also in your desire to divert every class to a new insight, which I have come to love. I may not understand everything that goes on but I’ve come to respect and admire you so greatly. I was probably one of your worst students but I’m not even sure how to express in words my gratitude for your help in every way that you have given it. I mean it 100% when I say I will remember you for the rest of my life. Thank you so much – I know you will do fantastically at your new school. Thank you for always believing in us, for wanting the best for us, and for not always focusing on grades, and more on the general appreciation for math. You are so deserving of all of your success. – Catherine

  3. Hey Dr. Harrow! I don’t know if you remember my skepticism about taking Honors Calc at the beginning of the year. I’m not someone who is intuitively good at math and with everything else I had going on during junior year, I thought that taking a challenging math class was something that I might not be able to handle. I remember how you reassured me way back in August. The fact that you taught Honors Calc was probably the most important factor that swayed me into staying in the class, as stories about you flowed from older kids, and I don’t regret it at all. Some parts of this year were tough for me, especially those second semester weeks when it seemed like I was just never in 6th period. Missing class is generally awful, but missing math was even worse because so much of the learning involved exploration in class rather than memorizing from a textbook. You were always there to re-explain concepts and ideas that you promised would blow our minds. Your excitement about math engaged me in a subject that I had never really cared about before beyond the grades and the tests. I truly want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me and all your other students, whether it was understanding our hectic schedules or just taking us out to enjoy the weather and the pollen in the outdoor classroom. A lot of articles and stories are written about teachers who are truly outstanding and who affect their students far beyond their high school years and I wanted to thank you for being one of them.– Eileen

  4. Thanks so much! Sometimes I get discouraged about all I have to do or I resent rewriting my curriculum yet another time or I feel too tired to try something new. Your prayer really encouraged me!

  5. Hi Dr. Harrow! I am sure you know this, but I have had a truly unforgettable year with you in Honors Calculus. Your classroom has been my go-to place, a room where I always knew I’d find a cool puzzle to play with and a fun, excited person to chat with. I have almost always (barring rote memorization in elementary school) loved math, but you and your class took that inherent interest to a whole new level. You showed me how to find math in everything, not just in class or in calculus but in random websites and in nature, and I will never forget our excited email exchanges over each new puzzle you introduced me to. You are the finest math teacher I have ever had, and you are my friend. Keep being you, keep inspiring your students like you have inspired me (and my classmates), and stay in touch!

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