While I am only one teacher voicing one humble teacher’s opinion, this is a letter intended for high school students everywhere. Maybe this applies to you and maybe not. Maybe you read it and think back to your high school days and realize, “that was so me.” Maybe not. Either way, read this with an open mind, an open heart, and minimal eye rolling please. Because I’m telling you all the secrets behind me being a teacher; all the deep dark truths behind my methods and strictness that you might not realize. I’m speaking to you frankly because I know you’re equipped to take a real assessment of yourself after being confronted from a place of care.
Often when people think of a teacher’s job, they comment on the benefits of the schedule- getting off work at 3, winter break, spring break, and all those random days off in between. But what you don’t realize is that when you leave school and head to soccer practice, play rehearsal, your job, or home, pushing all thoughts of school and teachers far from your brains, is that I’m thinking about you.
Kind of a lot. Like, all the time. And maybe not in the way you think.
An Open Letter to High School Students
You focus on points- your grades- I get it; grades are important for your future. But while you’re crunching hypothetical numbers and trying to squeeze out half points from me, your grade is not what I’m thinking about. My thoughts and concerns for you reside outside the realm of academia, points, and tests. To me, you are way more than your grades. Even though high school is your whole world right now, high school isn’t everything. It’s a necessary stage in your life you need to develop. It’s a stepping stone. It’s not everything.
Your great challenge
In fact, school isn’t even your great challenge, can you believe it? Life is. You know, that ‘life’ that exists beyond the brick walls of our school, the one that is going to throw you way more curve balls than the drama you immerse yourself in? There are more important issues that wait for you, far greater than feeling tempted to cut corners, cheat, or maybe even lie to turn in a 10 point homework assignment. There’s even life beyond the tears, breakups, and parties; I promise you that while high school is now your entire world, you will soon look back and believe that it was so small. That you were so young. That you were so small.
Why I worry
I worry about you for quitting; for showing up when you feel like it; for being only physically present. I worry about you for the excuses, the lack of effort, the complete disinterest. I worry not because my ego can’t handle it, but because you are setting yourself up for failure in life beyond high school.
When I write you a referral for tardiness or a dress code violation, it’s not that I can’t handle you being a minute late or that I cannot tolerate looking at someone without a tucked in shirt. It’s more than that – it’s about teaching you to respect and abide by the rules. I have had friends locked out of their college classes and fired from their jobs for tardiness. I care about your future.
When I give you a zero for late work, it’s not because I hate you or am being unfair. I’m teaching you the importance of meeting deadlines and the consequences that come with not being 100% prepared.
When I sit quietly at the front of class while you’re talking, it’s not because I can’t stand being interrupted – I have strong character, I can handle that. It’s about making you realize the inappropriateness of your conversation, either in topic or timing, and letting you come to the conclusion to stop on your own. Or not. Many students never have that self-realization, and that worries me too.
When I assert classroom rules, it’s not about bowing down to me as an authority figure. As much as you may think it, this is completely not the case. You know that my classroom is a place of reciprocal learning and respect – I learn from you, too. I worry about you in terms of your maturity and lack of awareness and respect for others around you.
It hurts my heart when I see you choosing not to work- to cut corners- to cheat, lie, and be sneaky. (Well, you think you’re being sneaky, at least.) It upsets me when you choose to take the easy way out because I worry it will develop into a destructive habit that will come back to teach you a lesson in your future; I don’t want it to come to that.
You have no idea how great you have it – no matter what personal, family, and social issues you have, you’re here – at an amazing school. You have people who care immensely about you giving you everything they can for the betterment of your minds, souls, and life. I had no idea how great I had it either; it’s one of those things that you’ll later look back at and say, “ohhh, I get it now.”
Take advantage of that! Take advantage of us! Not by copying homework, Snapchatting in class, or carrying on your oh so important conversations while I’m teaching – no!
Take advantage by squeezing all of the knowledge out of me. I don’t know it all, but girls and guys, I know a lot. Take advantage of me by questioning the material, engaging with the lesson, and learning as much as you can. Take advantage of it now, because it will never be handed to you so freely.
How I react
Many of you notice and ask why I’m always smiling; why don’t I have bad days? Why don’t I ever complain? As a student who has lied to my face, plagiarized, cheated on a quiz right in front of me, or texts during class, you might wonder how I will react to you. Well, you tell me – how have I reacted to you?
With patience. With a smile. With firmness, respect, and a helping hand. Why would I face you this way after you choose to disrespect me, my class, or others around you?
Because I care. When you’re an adult, work becomes the biggest, most time consuming part of your life, and I love my life. I love my job. I love it because of all of you. I can see past any of these problems because I know you are capable of so much greatness, and I know that you are good. You are more than points. You are more than choosing Spark Notes over reading the book. You are more than me catching you texting in class. Those are temporary, fleeting moments. You’re more than all of that.
Do you get it now?
I actually really, honestly, and truly care about you as humans, not just students in my classroom.
When you go home and push me from your mind, I’m still thinking of you. Long after you graduate and are thanking God Beowulf is behind you and there are no more papers to write, you’ll forget me, but I will still think of you.
You know what people say about your generation? That you’re a bundle of controversies: apathetic yet demanding. In need of instant gratification yet unwilling to put in the work. I’m on your side, so let’s prove them wrong.
I know you! I know you are capable of more! I have seen it, from some of you on a daily basis and others of you in fleeting glimpses, but for all of you, it is there. I believe in you.
So if this applies to you (you know who you are), then it’s time to get your act together, okay? Stop approaching life with the “will I get points for this?” mentality. Stop the excuses and start taking accountability. Just stop it, guys and girls. You’re capable of so so much more.
PS– Never stop being kind.
PPS– Never stop questioning your values and challenging the status quo.
PPPS– If you see this and comment insightfully, who knows? Maybe you’ll get extra credit. Or not- because it’s not about points, right?