To my students past, present and future:
I recognize that a lot of the time, the teacher is the enemy. He or she is the one who bogs you down with homework, takes your phone when you are texting an important message, and makes you feel inadequate for not understanding concepts. However, the existence of teachers is not simply to make your life a living hell. We are much more than that. I want you to consider some things that may not have crossed your mind in the past.
When you fail, I fail.
I often seem frustrated with you for not understanding the material. However, I want you to know that it is not you with whom I am frustrated; I am frustrated with myself. Unless you have blatantly ignored my lessons, I am most likely upset that I did not teach the material well and that you do not understand because I am not a good teacher. I reflect every single day on whether or not I am enough for you. Have I covered enough material? Have I taught it well enough for you to understand? Are you provided enough time in class to work on the assignments I expect you to complete? I think about my teaching more than you can imagine, and I really hope my care shines in my lessons. I do not expect you to recognize the work I put into my lessons, but I do want you to know that I try my best to make the material accessible to every one of you. When you don't "get it," it's oftentimes my fault.
You will forget about me.
And that's okay! You have bigger things in life to do than worry about one of your high school teachers. So often, students promise to stay in touch, begging me to be friends with them once they graduate. But staying in constant contact once you graduate and leave the high school is no realistic. I am training you to become a functioning member of society, and to you, I am a stepping stone. Every now and again, you may look through your old yearbooks and remember me fondly, or we may catch up via email or Facebook Messenger, but generally, you will forget about me. Don't feel bad about this; it's what I'm training you to do.
Every day is a new day.
Every time you step out of my classroom, your reputation follows you and does not come back the next day. Even if you are a student who causes trouble in my classroom every single day, I always expect tomorrow to be different, and I do not judge tomorrow based on today's behavior. I know it's hard for you to understand because teenagers are good at holding grudges, but I will never hold a grudge against any of my students; yesterday means nothing today.
It's OK if you're not an honors student.
When you are in my classroom, you are an individual. You are not defined by the letters on your report card or progress report. I define you by your character and effort. Sometimes I think you assume teachers play favorites based on who the "smart kids" are, but that is absolutely not true. I see your potential, even if you refuse to acknowledge it.
It's OK if you are an honors student.
Please don't think I'm knocking the honors students. I truly appreciate your behavior and work ethic. I love facilitating discussions that spark your intellectual curiosity Your maturity and ability to handle everything that is thrown at you blows my mind. I admire you for being able to juggle so many classes and extracurriculars, and I cannot wait to see where college takes you.
I challenge you because I want you to succeed.
I know that you guy often think that I am punishing you by making you read difficult texts, or analyze popular movie speeches for their rhetorical devices, but I do these things because I care. It is easy to follow directions and earn a grade, but that's not how it works in my classroom. I make you think critically, and I know you get annoyed with it. But I teach the way I do because I actually care about your growth, and I want you to succeed in the workforce and/or a higher education institution. In order to succeed, you must be able to adapt and think critically. I teach you these things to prepare you for the future.
I am proud of you.
I care about each and every one of you. You have no idea how proud you make me on a daily basis, and it brings me so much joy to watch you develop into the individuals you become. I watch you closely, and I notice your strengths and weaknesses. I am here for you, today and always. I am proud when you master a new song on the clarinet; I am proud when you stick up for a student who is being passive-aggressively bullied; I am proud when you want to redo an assignment because what you turned in was not your best work; I am proud when you speak your mind; I am proud when your sports team wins tournaments; I am proud when I read your poetry; I am proud of who you are and who you will become.
I want you to know that I recognize I am not the only teacher in my classroom. You teach me so much on a daily basis, and for that, I am extremely grateful. You also learn from each other, and I feel so privileged to be able to watch you grow, learn, and develop together within the four walls of our classroom community. I am excited for what your future holds, and I cannot wait to watch you "become."
Grow tall and proud, but always remember your roots.