Dear Future City Educator,
A lot of talk is happening, yet again, around what is best for the children of the city schools. A lot of talk is about how to provide supports for those students who live day-to-day with basic survival needs at the forefront of their brains. A lot of talk is about listening to the teachers and the staff in those schools and having their input. A lot of talk is happening about making students achieve. But there is no talk about what the future educator is being asked to do. No talk is happening about what the future educator is being asked to give up in their own life. No talk is happening about how to go on once this initiative gets boring and the money and the interest leaves.
You will learn quickly: the smell of specific drugs, that bed bugs are not fictional, that you don’t smoke in a kitchen while cooking meth, that you don’t get any sleep when the chickens are loud in the basement, that no matter how many new pairs of shoes you buy and send home the child will never wear them back to school because they will get sold, that homework doesn’t get done because they are busy being the parent to the younger siblings, that calling DFS results in a child getting beat worse for being a snitch, that snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches, that you are safe walking a child home as long as you carry a clipboard and a walkie talkie, that Santa doesn’t exist because there is no money for him and he only creates heartache, that Mondays are rough, that Wednesdays are the best teaching day, that Fridays are full of tears and anger, that the rules are different about social interactions with students, that you can take them and buy them meals, drive them to school events, that the Hill is Gander Hill, that the doctor’s office has vending machines because you use the hospital for routine medical treatment, that the 4th Street gang and the 11th Street gang doesn’t mix with the South Bridge gang, and they surely don’t mix with the Hispanic gang, that kids see murder and still get on the bus to school and don’t talk about it, that the first warm day of the season is the not the day for outdoor recess, that this will never be about the “money” or the “incentives”, that you will then accept abuse in your own life, that you will find comfort in food, alcohol, and prescription drugs.
But listen hard because those who came before you will also tell you that you will find great joy in seeing a student smile in your classroom, that you will cry when they are singing while working because they are happy, that every achievement they have will feel like your baby just accomplished it, that you will learn to keep the shoes in their cubby, that you will make sure that the extra snack goes in their backpack, that you will let them nap when needed because they spent all night laying under their mom in a shelter so they weren’t abused and they feel safe enough to allow themselves to rest, that they are so upset when you are absent, that what you do matters, that you will worry when there is a snow day because how will they eat today, that you will find your best friend at that school, that you will make bonds with colleagues that will outweigh any other working relationship, that you have a support system, that even the kid who threw the first punch deserves compassion, that it truly doesn’t matter what color your skin is, that the system is wrong, that those who have the power don’t understand the harm they do, that what you do matters, that when you do choose to leave you will be filled with guilt because you still have so much more to do, that what you do matters, that you do make a difference, that you are allowed to cry, that you are allowed to have fun and laugh, that growth rather than proficiency is a much better measure, that what you do matters, that you are an amazing person, that it is ok to be tired, that it is ok to go home and try again tomorrow, that what you do matters!
While everyone is talking about what is best, you know in your heart what is best. And while there is yet another groundbreaking movement, you will continue to do what works and to do it with love, knowledge and compassions. You will be offended by those who “know” and want to tell you how to do things. You will know that at the end of the day that you tried and that you should be applauded and appreciated for more than you ever will be. But understand, there are people out there who have walked in your shoes, they do know, and they are cheering for you. They are hoping that you will be part of the initiative that finally works. They are hoping that you will succeed. They are hoping that you will share your successes with them, for they are there, in spirit with you. You are the future. You are picking up where they left off. You are taking on what they no longer had the strength to do. Dear Future City Educator, you are me and I know that you can do this. So take deep breaths, learn classroom management, get a support system, learn about the culture, learn to not impose your values upon your students and families, and work hard to build relationships with your families. Love what you do it for. Love who you do it with. Half listen to those who “know”. There may be a little wisdom in their words. Teach compassion and kindness. Teach persistence and character. Teach. Because that is what you are meant to do. We are counting on you. The children are counting on you. And what you do matters!
A Former City Educator
I received this in the mail, hand-written, and in cursive. The author made me cry reading this. That doesn’t happen often these days. You may think you know what it means to teach in a city school. You might be able to understand what it is like being a student in a city school. But until you have walked in either shoe, you don’t.