To my dear students,
This letter is to let you know that today is my last day as your teacher. As a teacher. But I need you to know that this choice was made in spite of my deep love and commitment to teaching you. In fact, making this decision is the hardest and bravest decision I’ve ever had to make. Since I was your age, I knew I wanted to teach. For my entire adult life, teaching has been more than my job: it’s been my identity, my passion, my commitment to my community. It is hard to walk away from that, especially as I still believe that education–a free, quality, public education–is a public good that can transform our society and the lives in it.
Sometimes, there are things that we love, that we are good at, that are important, that also require boundaries for our wellbeing. This has become true for this job, in this part of my life, for me. I don’t have a lot of good words right now to explain all of the reasons why I am leaving, but I do have a poem I want to share with you:
Let me begin again as a quiet thoughtLet Me Begin Again by Major Jackson
in the shape of a shell slowly examined
by a brown child on a beach at dawn
straining to see their future. Let me begin
this time knowing the drumming in my dreams
is me inheriting the earth, is morning
lighting up the rivers. Let me burn
my vanities: old music in the pines, sifters
of scotch, a day moon like a signature
of night. This time, let me circle
the island of my fears only once then
live like a raging waterfall and grow
a magnificent mustache. Let me not ever be
the birdcage or the serrated blade or
the empty season. Dear Glacier, Dear Sea
of Stars, Dear Leopards disintegrating
at the outer limits of our greed; soon we will
encounter you only in motivational tweets.
Reader, I should have married you sooner.
This time, let me not sleep like the prophet who
believes he’s seen infinity. Let me run
at break-neck speeds toward sceneries
of doubt. I have no more dress rehearsals
to attend. Look closer: I am licking my lips.
The thing is, you shouldn’t have to wonder if you can begin again. Every day is a new day, and you can always start something new, no matter how scary it is. This is the reason why I wanted to write this letter to you. Every day you have the opportunity to make decisions that give your life the direction you want it to have. You can have a magnificent mustache whenever you decide, regardless of whatever that mustache represents. You don’t have to begin again to live a life that aligns with your values. You don’t have to begin again to live a life that honors you. You don’t have to begin again to reprioritize your family or your relationships or your own sense of whimsy. You don’t have to begin again to reimagine what success might look like for you. I also want to leave you with another quote from bell hooks: “Erich Fromm [defines] love as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.’” I want to provide a quick clarification about the word “spiritual: “[It is] referring to that dimension of our core reality where mind, body, and spirit are one” (hooks). Your spirit, and the spirit of every person on this planet, deserves nurturing, deserves love. I have spent a lot of energy extending myself for the purpose of nurturing the spiritual growth of others, and it’s been my life’s joy. But I often did this at the expense of my peace and my spirit. I’ve also done it at the expense of my family–my husband, daughter, and friends. But now I’m going to spend time making intentional choices to nurture my own spiritual growth. I charge you with this: lead lives where you strike this important balance. Make the choice to love, to invest in others, but in doing so, don’t forget to invest in yourself. And remember that love is not something inherent or that we just “feel.” It’s action. “There can be no love without justice. Until we live in a culture that not only respects but upholds basic civil rights for children, most children will not know love” (hooks). Please remember that even as you become adults, you all started as children, and the love you have received has impacted your worldview and how you interact with others. People see love as very unacademic and even lowly compared to reason and intellect. But nothing you do in this life will add value to the world if you do it without love. All we have is this: a rock that we are all stuck on floating in space. Be good to others. Do good for others. I will never stop fighting for you.
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