To my students,
I need you to look at me because I have to tell you something very important. I see you, okay? I’m not talking about your pants that come to your mid-calves because they still button around your skinny middle or the ones that reach your ankles but are rolled 3 times to compensate for the waist of the older sibling from whom you borrowed them. I’m not talking about the unruly hair you’re hiding under that hoodie because your mama hasn’t had the time or the money this week to take you to get your hair done. I’m not talking about the shoes you’re wearing like slippers, breaking those heels down because your toes were crammed up in those things so tight you winced when you walked. And I’m not talking about the times you come to school wearing brand new, tags still attached outfits because your mama just got paid and wanted to make the rest of those outfits up to you.
That’s not what I’m talking about.
I see YOU in there, who you can become. I’m never going to lie to you and tell you I know what it’s like. My daily proximity to you does not give me the right to assume I understand what it means to wake up with the joys, fears, and experiences you wake up to each morning. I will never get it. Let’s get that out of the way right now because the important part is coming up:
I NEED YOU TO FIGHT. (No, not like that.) I need you to fight past all of those hurdles the world has set up for you just because of where you live. I need you to run right through, over, under those things. The world is unfair and you’re going to need to work twice, three times, FOUR times as hard as the kid a school district over. BUT YOU CAN DO THIS. I just know it. Your other teachers? They know it too. That’s why we are on you, all the time, about everything- because we know how much further you have to go to get to the same finish line. You’re going to have to block out what other people say about you and what you can or can’t accomplish. You’re going to have to push through all of those things you see and hear that you shouldn’t have to be exposed to. You’re going to have to wrestle those memories (the ones of the adults in your family worrying over money, over food, over safe places to live) into fuel for your fire to burn up and out of here like a rocket.
You have so much beauty. So much potential. The world may be uncomfortable with you because truly seeing you makes them rethink how much their talk about the current state of poverty and educational disparities outweighs the actions they’ve actually taken to make change. You’re going to have to trust me when I tell you how desperately you need to focus on your studies now. Yes, even at 6 years old, 7 years old, 8 years old. I need you to understand that this is why I push you so hard. It is because I see you. I believe in you. I know you can do this. You’ve already got so much fight in you, Tiny Thing. We’re gonna focus that and get you anywhere you want to go. The world is your oyster, baby. Kick those legs, muffle out the noise, and take what is yours.
I see you.
You can do this.