February 14, 2016

Break Free with Me: A Letter to My Students.

Max Klingensmith/Flickr

I’m no different than you.

I crawl out of bed each morning pleading with the universe to give me a few more hours buried among pillows and blankets and sleepy-eyed dreams.

I drag myself to the bathroom and open my eyes staring at my reflection, wondering whose face is staring back at me.

I still count on my fingers and pretend to know more than I actually do. I don’t see the point in compare and contrast, cause and effect, sequencing steps. I read from a book I despise, teaching a lesson I don’t see the point in, yet I smile all the while.

You ask me with those big, brown suffocating eyes, “When will I ever use this?” I sigh and look down at my feet—same size as yours, same shoes. I want to utter the words, “You won’t.” But I shake my head and redirect you instead.

My eyes give me away. I don’t care if you eat in class, prop your feet up on a desk or use the trash can to practice three-point shots. I admire the creativity. I admire the spunk. Although I am supposed to tell you to throw away the bag of Doritos, I pop open a bag of Lays.

We expect you to sit still for seven hours a day, staring at programs you despise on computer screens. Data driven instruction, to say the least. The numbers need to increase, as our ability to think for ourselves disappears. Relying on progression, we neglect the human experience and teach you to do the same.

For this, I am ashamed.

So let me pick a paperback book of your choosing, tossing out the lesson plans with standards and numbers that create division between you and I and the world around us. You like dragons, you say? We will read until our voices go dry. We will read about fire-breathing beings with the ability to light up the night sky with a simple hiccup.

You like romance novels? We will create our own. You will ask me what our prince should look like, and I will tell you he shall not exist. Instead, it will be you who climbs to the top of the highest tower and rescues yourself from a life behind bars. A prisoner, no more. With a sword, jagged and true, we will cut off the long hair that binds you to a mere image. You will be free from all the weight that was never yours to carry anyway.

It was never yours to carry. Don’t listen to what they say.

I’ll remind you that it’s okay to dream about a world with fairy-dust promises and Hershey kisses as tear drops. Kiss your own wounds, but not before you pour salt inside them. Feel, bleed and stay humble, but never forget the only power you’ll ever need is deep seeded inside each pore of your skin.

The villain is you, the hero is you. Which side of the coin will you let shine in this life?

Just because you are on the cusp of growing up, doesn’t mean your soul should die with your youth or your youth should die with yourself. Stay forever young, but let yourself grow wise. Let yourself love wise. Let yourself stay wise.

So together, let us tear down these walls that bind us inside this classroom. Let us discover the world outside, for that is where the real learning begins.

I will wipe off your make up. You will wipe off mine. I will remind you that you’re beautiful and to stop wishing away your youth. I will plead with you to put down the smart phone, the iPad, the laptop—the excess of expectations already branded in your brain. Perfection is fear dressed in diamonds and pearls. Strive for it and you’re left emptier than before.

I refuse to kill your spirit. I refuse to let them kill mine.

We are wolves reincarnated, acting as laboratory mice running ourselves dead on wheels. No progress is being made, so why must we keep running? No progress will be made until we break free.

Break free with me.

For who am I to tell you that you’re right or wrong? Who am I to put red ink all over your paper implying that your best is not enough?

Success isn’t a piece of paper you receive claiming you have been accepted into a man-made world. You don’t need acceptance from anyone, but yourself.

My sweet students, the universe is yours. You are warriors, princes and princesses. You are your own destiny.

And I am your teacher.

But oh, you are mine.


Author: Emily Gordon

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: Max Klingensmith/Flickr

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Emily Gordon