I’ll start with a personal apology to my students. The first week of a new school year is so important to me. I want you all to be excited about coming to my class, safe with the knowledge that you have someone in front of the room who cares. It’s important to me that you know that.
The apology is this: I am sorry for the first week. Each year, I spend the first week just getting to know you. We don’t really look at the curriculum. We simply talk to each other, learn about each other, and start to build some trust with each other. And, each year, I feel like I fail to do that perfectly. I am sorry if I didn’t handle your personal responses perfectly. I am sorry if you felt I didn’t talk to you enough or if some dominated the activities. I am sorry that I didn’t do everything perfectly. You deserve that.
I promise you I’ll get better. As weeks two, three, and four passes, I’ll continue to try to earn your trust. I’ll never stop. I’ll continue to build our classroom culture because without it, we will not learn from each other. For me, the first week always begins with the highest of hopes. But, in 22 years of first weeks, I have never had one where I felt it went perfectly. But, I will continue to try. And, again, I promise you, that I will do better next week and beyond.
I am not alone with that. You see, there are so many of my colleagues at all grade levels who care as deeply as I do. There are so many teachers who spend sleepless nights in search of the right lesson for you. There are so many who spend their own money to provide those extra things that make your classrooms better. There are so many who spend extra time with you. There are so many who see you, hear you, and want to be “that person” for you.
I know so many of them; I am fortunate enough to work with so many of them. I feel like I can say something on their behalf to you as you are almost ready for another week of a relatively new year.
On behalf of my colleagues…
You are the reason we are here. Your happiness, your growth, your present, and your future are the very reasons we come to work each and every day. We want you to come to our classes knowing that you are valued, that you matter, and, most importantly, you are not just someone who is filling a seat for the next 10 months.
You are someone who can make a difference in the world right now. We are not training you for tomorrow. You already have the power to do something now. We, your teachers, just want to give you more tools so you can go out there and make your mark right now. And, we believe that whether you are in our kindergarten class or in our senior AP class.
The system that we work in maybe antiquated and in need of some change. The system may be forcing you to jump through state mandates that hold no relevance in your life. The system may be telling you that in order to be deemed a success that you must achieve a certain number, get a certain score, go to a certain college.
But, that’s the system. It is not us, your teachers. We know better. We know that we must fight and reform our system so that we can better help you either find your passion or continue to hone that passion. And, we know that we must give our very best, each and every day, to you.
We know that you all come to school with “something”. Whether it is the pressure to get to the next level, to achieve some standard, or to please someone, we know that you come with that pressure. We know that all of you want to do well. Nobody comes to school to fail, no matter what front you may put on.
We also know that many of you come with so many other things that are unfair. Some of you have gone through an unspeakable tragedy. Some of you are living in shelters. Some of you are surviving abuse. Some of you are worrying about where your next meal is coming from. Some of you are worried about your family in other countries. Some of you are worried about the next bit of racism and discrimination you’ll face. Some of you are dealing with a myriad of problems at home. Some of you worry about life and death each and every day. Some of you see school as a respite from all of that, not the place to get out from under those unfair hardships.
We see you. We hear you. We care about you.
We empathize with you and want to help you.
But, that doesn’t mean we are lowering our standards for you. We will fight every urge to go easy on you because we know that if we do that, we aren’t giving you what you truly deserve: an education that will help you thrive despite all of the obstacles and pressures placed in front of you.
So, we will continue to teach, push you to see that you are capable of anything. We will show you that writing and literature can unlock so many possibilities, change the world, and also help you see humanity. We will show you the logic of math, science, technology to help you solve any problem thrown your way. We will teach you that it is important for you to find your passions, pursue those passions, and live a life centered around those passions.
Most importantly, we will teach you to be kind because no matter your age, choosing kindness towards others can not only solve much of the problems the world is facing, but it will make our schools a better place and our lives so much happier.
And, sure, you may have encountered of few people who call themselves teachers during your first week. You may have been admonished by a “teacher” for going to your locker just minutes upon entering the middle school for the first time in your life. You may have been told by another that they aren’t paid to care. You may have been put into a class with one of the few who just don’t care.
But, they are the few. They don’t represent us. Those of us who care far outnumber those who are simply putting in their time. And, we are truly sorry that you had those experiences. The majority of us are here because we care and want to make a difference in your life. Don’t let those few keep you from the majority of us who care. Seek us out when you need something. Seek us out for help. Seek us out if you just want to talk. We’ll be there.
We are excited for this new year. We are excited to get to know you. We are excited not only to teach you but to learn from you. We are excited to help you realize just how amazing you really are.
We are excited to be your teacher.