As a program developer, I am putting systems in place to measure the outcomes of my work. But at the same time, the teacher in me tries to nurture a certain detachment in this very regard. In my own experience as a student, there have been certain lessons, certain relationships whose significance remained obscure to me for years. This is true in education and, arguably, truer still in youth development. If we are working to endow individuals with resources to transform their lives, we have to be ready to play the long game. We can never really know if, when, and which of the many seeds we’ve sprinkled will take root. Teaching is not unlike gardening in the sense that on top of skill, it also requires a goodly amount of confidence in that skill, patience, and faith that eventually our efforts will bear fruit.

While I aim to hand my young people tools they can put to immediate use in their daily lives, I don’t expect to witness overnight transformations. By the same token, in order not to drive myself crazy, I don’t anticipate words of gratitude from everyone I work with. But let me tell you, when affirmation comes my way, I lap it up shamelessly.

Below I am posting with permission a letter from one of the mentees who just graduated from Adoptment. Part of my program work with their young people included personal “love letters of evaluation” following every workshop. I’d gotten positive feedback from the young people casually after our sessions together, but receiving it in written form meant the world to me.

This is what can happen after two years of working with someone:

Johanna letter


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