Open Letter to My Students

education

Dear Students,

What’s good! I hope this letter finds you all doing well. As you have all experienced I try to reflect often or, as some of ya’ll say, to get “deep” and “to get in my feelings.” Well, this letter was motivated by one of those times. I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a teacher, to truly serve you and our communities. What I’ve come to is this: I owe you all an apology.

During our time together I tried to motivate you; I tried to challenge you to think critically and to grow. This is not what I am apologizing for. I am apologizing because in that process I feel like I may have boxed in your genius; and you are all geniuses.

I may have forgot to tell you there are at least nine different types of intelligence:  Naturalist, Musical, Logical, Existential, Interpersonal, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Linguistic, Intra-Personal, and Spatial. Each of you is gifted in at least one of these areas. Sadly, schools do not value these intelligences equally. Some, typically naturalist and logical, get valued much higher. These are the intelligences that get assessed in school, and that tests, such as the ACT, measure. Beyond schools assessing solely these two intelligences, schools do not give you the appropriate practice and training to show and prove your vast intelligence. But, you know this already, you are the products of this illogical system.   I bring this up because many of you do not believe you are smart, and that hurts my soul. You are smart. The schools are failing you! Not the other way around.

Each of you know I value knowledge. However, I am not sure I have sufficiently stressed the difference between education and school. Before I go any further let me say, I am not advocating that you drop out of high school. What I am acknowledging is that schools often stifle your genius instead of fostering your creativity and intelligence. One of my students continuously reminds me of how school is holding him back. It is my recent responses to him that I must apologize for.  So, let me say here: You are right, it does. But, as many of you have heard me say, this is chess not checkers. The fact that you notice the shortfalls of schools does not surprise me, as I said you are brilliant; but, this is not a reason to give up, to say “fuck it.” You must educate yourself, you must acquire knowledge, and I’ll keep it 100 with you, my classroom is a good place to do that. What I am trying to say is: go after and nurture your genius. If you know what you want and that path does not include college, go for it! If it does take you through a college or university, do that as thorough as you can. This is what success is: being happy and satisfied and sustainable. Too often I have fallen into the trap of  “go to college.” For that I apologize.  I respect each of your hustles. And, if you ain’t hustling, what you doing?

Beyond that, I need you. We need you. If there is hope for this planet, and for humanity, it lies with you. Whether you get your diploma, get your GED, your Bachelors, or you end up as a PhD, we need you. We need you to use your genius to make this world a better place. We need you to plant food and fight the Monsanto’s of the world. We need you to be literate and to understand who your enemy is; to understand why the prisons are filled with black and brown faces. We need you to understand why, and how, so many people are so damn broke. We need you to get us off oil. In short, we need you to heal because, as I was reminded recently: hurt people, hurt people. The only way you are going to accomplish this is by being literate, as Paulo Freire said: read the word and the world.

I apologize if I did not make these things clear. I won’t make that mistake again. I believe in you, and I stand ready to follow where you lead.

Peace Love Power Respect

Ryan

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