“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed; If we must die — let it not be like hogs hunted and penned in an inglorious spot; It took me one hundred years to read a book and now I am seeking one hundred years of what was stolen from me,” as said by Hughes, and Dawes beginning my units on the Holocaust and slavery in hopes of reaching you, my students who depend on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram for your self-worth, and who believe that books are a waste of time — who live by how many “Likes” you have, and the pursuit of hook-ups that replace love for lust. This is my letter to you.
As your teacher, my goal is to help you mature. For you to see how writers use ideas and imagery to move the trajectory of the human condition forward. To help you see that living for only self is empty and that you owe it to those who went before fighting the battles for freedom and equality.
To be a contributor to your family and community. To be better each day. To read great books to know life then and now. To know yourself and what you believe in. To do the hard things in life. To be fully alive, and to lift up and lend a hand to another even when it’s inconvenient.
To offer time instead of a busy signal. To read widely to develop authentically. To be grateful for the freedoms in America that you’ve been given.
To walk in another’s shoes in order to understand their point of view. To not throw away an education to hang out on social media 24/7. To know when to walk away from something or someone that’ll bring you down and those around you. To “take the crooked with the straights.”
To take time to reflect and seek your purpose and stay focused. To be determined to use all the gifts and talents you’ve been given, so that when you get to the end of your life you have nothing left over. To impact others so they’ll be better for it as you will too. To be quick to hear and slow to speak. To look at the challenges in life as opportunities and not whine about it. To take full responsibility for your actions even if it means you must say you’re sorry first.
To stand up for the underdog, even if someone makes fun of you. To be the first to hug and praise. To teach kindness, commitment, love, and loyalty through actions, because you know talk is cheap. To be the first to volunteer and lead others to try something new. To feel the fear and do it anyway. To seek out books that make you grow, even though it’s time consuming and sometimes difficult. To spend time with family. To be grateful for the blessings you have. To realize that if you have your health and brains you can do most anything in life. To know that you always have choices. Choose love. Walk away from the counterfeit joy of buying more.
Be the captain of your life. Use your life wisely – there are no do overs. This is your chance to right the wrongs in the past and live authentically. And, like Langston Hughes says, “Take it even if you’re pressed against the wall, at least you’re fighting back.”
Love, Your Teacher.