I love to write but I am not good at writing out an argument, I am not a persuader, and I struggle with articulating my own opinions. I am not as politically or socially sound as I’d like to be. My knowledge of our history is not where it should be. With that being said, I am not writing to choose a side or to argue my own points. I am writing because my heart-breaks right now and I need not to be silent.
As per usual, my words are an overflow of my heart. In the state of fragility, separation, and brokenness our country rests in right now, my heart sits in that place too. I am heart-broken by the lives lost, the lives hurting, and the lives living in fear. I can’t be quiet about something that is so loud. But, I also don’t want to be argumentative. I want to weep with those who weep. And right now, I know that I’m weeping with a lot of kids that I will one day teach and because of that, I wanted to write them in this time.
To my students one day,
Your life matters. You have purpose. You have more than just potential. You are important. You have a story that deserves to be heard and a life that deserves to be lived.
I’m writing you now as a student myself in tears thinking of the things your young lives are experiencing as we speak. This broken world right now makes me all the more passionate about being your teacher one day because I believe your generation is one that will make a change. I believe in you. As your teacher, my greatest purpose will be to show you that you have purpose. Your education has purpose, but more importantly your life has purpose.
Our nation is the land of the free, yet I know that not all of you feel free. I don’t know what it feels like to be black and to be generalized as a criminal. I don’t know what it feels like to be Muslim and to be thought of as a terrorist. I don’t know what it feels like to be a minority. I don’t know what it feels like to be gay and to feel isolated and judged based off of who I like. I don’t know what it feels like to be depressed to the point of contemplating death. I don’t know what it feels like to walk out of the classroom with the fear of getting shot. I don’t know what it feels like to live in poverty. I don’t know what it feels like to be bullied because of my race. And as your teacher and friend, I won’t pretend that I do know what all of that feels like. Instead, I will empathize with you, stand beside, and care for you.
I do know what it feels like to hurt though. We all do. I’ve lost lives I’ve loved. I’ve seen the darkness of depression. I’ve experienced pain I didn’t know I’d overcome. I’ve felt isolation and I’ve felt pain. Hurt is hurt and we need to stand together in that. I will be with you in your hurt. And I will do everything I can to make sure after a year in my classroom you leave my class knowing that your life matters. We will give purpose to the pain you’ve lived through in persevering together and in writing our stories out.
As your English teacher, I have the privilege to teach you about history, life, and your life. We will not be diving into the bias textbooks, instead, we will be diving into literature that tells the personal stories of the lives that have lived our history. We will get to connect with Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl during WWII, that had to be in hiding during her teenage years to avoid a concentration camp to only be caught and later killed all because she was a Jew. We will get to experience a glimpse of what it was like between the walls of a concentration camp through Ellie Wiesel’s book “Night”. We will get to understand the heart-aches of serving in a war through Tim O’Brian’s “The Things They Carry”. We will get to dive into the struggle of your skin color hindering you through reading Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”. We will read and listen to Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”. We will hear the words Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall. We will get to connect to a character experiencing teenage angst and alienation in J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”. We will get to the issues of rape and racial inequality through reading Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”. We will read Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”. We will look into the life a slave through Joyce Hansen’s “The Captive” or by reading Frederick Douglas’s narrative. We will read about 9/11. We will We will read Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” that attempts to break down the walls that separate one person from another. And we, collectively as a class, will too attempt to break down the walls that separate one person from another.
Not only will we read and connect to these stories, but throughout the year I will encourage you to write your story. I will challenge you to write about what you are passionate about, what excites you, what breaks your heart, what you’ve had to overcome, and what this life has been for you. Because words are powerful. We can empower change through the stories of our lives because you and your life have that much purpose.
I already know that one of my greatest challenges in teaching will be the fact that I ultimately cannot protect you from what goes on outside of the classroom. I won’t be able to save you or heal you or protect you. I don’t get to see your home life, I don’t get to see the dangers in front of you, and I will never fully understand what you go through day to day. But in that, I won’t be naïve to the fact that you go through something. Each of you have your difficulties. I know there is always a story behind a behavior. But, I will not let you allow your circumstances hinder you from fulfilling your potential and purpose. I will fight for you and with you in overcoming the tribulations. You are not alone. You are valued and important my friend.
Now, this might be strange that I’m 19, three years away from actually teaching, and am writing you. My words may mean nothing to you. But right now, in the midst of our country waging war within it’s walls, the only thing I can think to do is to write you. Because I will not allow myself in three years to forget the emotions I am feeling now. I am feeling overwhelmed with sadness for the separation that exists in our country and in our classrooms. I am feeling passionate that change needs to occur. I am feeling heart-broken for the lives lost. I am feeling the fear that our country is trembling in currently. I am feeling pain for the separation that exists. I will make a stand and not allow my classroom to be one of separation. People are people. Hurt is hurt. We each have a story. We each have purpose. We each matter in this world.
I am going to do everything I can in these next three years to be fully prepared to lead you, love you, and teach you. I may not know you guys yet but man do I think about you often and already care for you. I believe in you now. I will believe in you when you are in my class. And I will believe in you when you are out of my class. We all need more people to believe in us and I will be one of those people for you.
I am rooting for you now and cannot wait to read the words of your heart and mind soon.
Your teacher, friend, and fan,