An Open Letter to My Students

Dear Past, Present, and Future Students,
There is so much I want to tell you, but can’t always tell every single one of you individually. Although this is my fifth year teaching, in many ways it feels like my first year. I constantly question myself and hope that I am inspiring you by my words and my actions. The moment of silence every day after the Pledge of Allegiance is my time for a quick prayer. I previously used that time to make sure everyone was being silent and respectful, but now I bow my head, close my eyes, and say essentially the same prayer every morning…”please God help me to be the best teacher I can be today. Please give me the ability to inspire my kids, the wisdom to be effective and to know what they need from me today.” I follow up this prayer with a quick sign of the cross, a part of my Catholic roots.

“I constantly question myself, and hope that I am inspiring you by my words and my actions.”

Every day I enter my classroom tired and unsure of myself, reminiscent of my first year teaching. I don’t know if that will ever go away, or if the uncertainty should ever go away. I worry that one day I will be so “effective” and polished and certain, that I will lose my magic. Somehow, I am relatable to you, which allows you to open up to me about your deepest fears, and biggest dreams. Only then do I feel like I am effective. I want so badly to help you with your problems at home, your emotionally abusive boyfriend, your fear of leaving home for college, or your well-meaning parent that won’t give you the freedom to spread your wings and fly, because I know that you can fly. Although I cannot call your parent and discuss your freedoms, like I would your test scores, I want you to know that I care very much, and that I believe in you.

I’m pretty sure I am supposed to send you downstairs to a stranger with the title of guidance counselor to talk, but don’t worry, I won’t do that to you. I know that you won’t tell them any personal information, and then your trust in me will forever be eroded.
One day very soon you will be an adult, making your own choices and leading your own life, in any direction that you choose. Please make your choices wisely. I don’t want to see you make the same mistakes that I made, because I consider you my child and want so badly for you to lead an authentic life and to create your happiness, whatever that may be. Don’t get into too much debt, don’t marry someone unless both your heart and your head are in agreement, and please take my advice to gain a marketable skill.
Many teachers may applaud your goal to go to an expensive four-year college away from home, where you plan to major in English. Please take my advice and major in something that requires a test after you graduate, otherwise you probably have gotten yourself into debt for no reason, and will not be able to get a job that will be meaningful to you and pay you enough to support yourself. Trust me when I say that economic freedom gives you so much freedom and choice in almost all other aspects of your life. I want that for you so much. Following your dreams and being responsible can go hand in hand. Take risks, but only calculated ones.
I want you to know that I will always be here for you, quietly cheering you on and praying that you chase your dreams. Don’t look at the world and the road less traveled and become overwhelmed. You don’t need a 10 year plan. You need to know your next step, and the one after that…and that’s it. You do not need to feel smart in order to be smart. The most successful people are the ones that are the hardest working. When you out-work everyone else, when you go in early and stay late, when you persevere even when it seems impossible, that is when you succeed. I know in my heart that you are capable of greatness.
Don’t let your past dictate your future. It doesn’t matter that your parents didn’t go to college, or that they did. It doesn’t matter that you were born to a teen mother or that your parents got divorced. History does not have to repeat itself. Coming from an abusive home does not mean that you are destined to create one. Be willing to accept the past, forgive, and vow to lead a completely different life…one that makes you proud, even if it makes others uncomfortable. You do not need permission to think outside of the box.
Lastly, I want to thank you. Collectively, you have taught me so much more than I could ever teach you. You have taught me to laugh at myself more, to be thankful for my journey, shown me qualities that I want to teach to my biological children, and you’ve shown me so much grace for which I am truly grateful. You can feel when I have had a bad day, and when I just can’t put anything else on my metaphorical plate. You push me to work harder, be better, and do more than I ever thought I could.
Thank you.
Maybe I will never lose my magic. Maybe my magic comes from you.

With Love,
Your Teacher

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