An Open Letter to My Students
At the end of the semester I find myself thinking about where I’ve taken you, my students. I think about the highs and the lows- there were many of both. And then I reflect on what I've taught you. My hope is that I’ve taught you something deeper; something beyond the theme of To Kill A Mockingbird or the difference between personification and anthropomorphism. I love the content that I teach, but even more than that I love the discussion and creativity that can come out of an English class. Since my time with you is running out, here’s a list of a few of the things I hope I’ve given you in the 4,140 minutes I’ve spent with each class this semester.
Creativity should never be boxed, but should be harnessed.
I am a firm believer that there are stupid questions. There are! I ask stupid questions every day! We should always ask crazy questions, though, because creativity can be sifted out of the wild and (sometimes) weird ideas that we imagine. I always encourage my students to brainstorm three ideas for each project because your first idea is rarely your best one. If you get the weird out of the way, creativity has room to come out.
We are not that different from our ancestors. This is both good and bad.
Through the study of Mythology we learn about the fears, victories, and obsessions of the people of the ancient world. I hope that you have learned (or will learn) that these lessons can help us avoid making the same mistakes, but also, if misinterpreted, could tempt us to make the same errors. Humanity has advanced in so many ways during our time on Earth, but the ways that we still resemble the heroes, villains, humans and gods of ancient times is almost uncanny, and sometimes unsettling. We have more to learn from them than we think.
People always matter. Whether it’s a classmate, a family member, or someone you can’t stand, they matter. Your reaction to every single thing they do is a reflection on who you are and what you stand for. Never forget it. Your words mean nothing if your actions negate them.
Learning isn’t about memorizing, but processing.
Education is one of the most crucial factors of success. Every single one of you is receiving an education, though it may look different for each of you. I hope that I have taught you that learning is less about doing well, less about memorizing answers, less about a grade and more about processing the world around you in meaningful and educated ways. I want you to succeed and I want you to get good grades, but more than anything I want you to see the world as yours and feel confident and capable in approaching it as an informed and important member of it. You have a place in this world, and your education plays a critical part in that.
Life is too long to settle.
It’s easy to have dreams, but it can feel impossible to realize them. Often the phrase “life is too short” is used to encourage chasing your dreams and seizing the day. I have always appreciated “life is too long” as a more accurate and honest descriptor. Our lives are too long to settle for something that we feel dispassionate and indifferent about. Life is too long to be bored with it. If you are doing something that you do not like, set goals to move past it. Change doesn’t happen instantly, but don’t let that discourage you from chasing after it and making it happen. I have a million goals, but very few that are currently being realizing. What I am doing now, though, is preparing me for future success in those goals. It’s not enough to wait for the future. You have to prepare for your future in your present.
Finally, you always have someone on your side.
As an educator, I don’t have a choice but to be on your side. As a human being, I have a moral obligation to care about your success and well-being. You will always have me in your corner, because I believe that all people need an advocate, a cheerleader, a coach, or a teacher throughout their lives. Even if you feel you have no one on your side, remember that @paulsatchwill is only a tweet away.