My class is not going to be the most important thing in your life every day, and that is okay. It does not mean you are a bad student, it simply means that you are alive. We will spend a year together. Everyday, I will remind myself that in your life there will be moments of great sorrow and great joy, and you will show up in my classroom through them all. I hope that you will try to do the same for me. My greatest dream as a teacher is that there will be some days, just a few, where my class might be the most important thing in your life, because that would mean that you opened your heart up to me.
I am irredeemably human, as we all are. I am imperfect, and I will make mistakes—I can promise you that. You will make mistakes too. Hopefully, we will learn how to forgive each other for these things. Success is not about being perfect, it’s about using everything we have to be the best that we can be. It’s about growing just a little each day. It’s about trying, even if you are afraid things won’t turn out how you want them to. It’s about trying again and again when things don’t go your way.
The world has changed a lot since I was in 7th grade. 7th grade was the year America elected their first black president, Barack Obama. It was the year the last Harry Potter book came out. It was the year twitter was announced to the world. Still, all these years later I can remember what it was like to be in your shoes.
I was a smart kid, but I did not get to where I am because I was smart. The success I’ve achieved is because I had grit—I was unrelenting in the pursuit of my most important dreams and goals. Whether I would fail or succeed, I would always continue on. You can do this too. It is not easy, but together we will figure out how you can always keep trying, because trying is the true secret to success.
I grew up with struggles, just as you are growing up with struggles. I understand how hard it is for you to go through the school day and deal with your dyslexia, dysgraphia or ADHD because I have all of those things too. It is still hard for me—I have friends that can read a book in a few hours and I will never be able to do that. Just because you are dyslexic or ADHD doesn’t mean that you can’t one day be the best student in an AP English class. If you love something with your whole heart, if you work hard and you get the help you need, you will succeed.
You are not in my class just to learn the rules of writing and reading. You are here to learn how to be fully alive in each moment. You are here to learn that there are authors who can express things you have always felt but never knew how to say. You are here to learn how to be an advocate for yourself, how to talk to people in a way that allows you to be understood. Most importantly, you are here to learn how to tell your own story, because the story of you is so important.
There is a life inside of you—this I believe. It is up to us to discover together what ignites your soul with hope and love and wonder. Once you find this, the world will start to fall into place. You may not know it now, but your life is an epic poem waiting to be discovered. I believe that the things you learn in this class will help you unlock the story of your own purpose.
My goal for you is that at the end of this class, you will be able to speak and write in a way that makes people want to listen to the things you have to say, because even though I don’t know you yet, I believe you have important things to say. When life gets too hard to bear, I want you to know how to find refuge in the pages of a book. Together, we will learn how to unlock the wisdom which our greatest authors have hidden in their books. Together, we will learn how to live.
Jessica is a masters student in the Education & Human Development's Teaching, Language, and Culture department.