an anonymous letter from a high school senior
and the teacher who is trying
We are all trying.
I mean, really trying.
I've been a teacher for 22 years, and this year is like starting over. We have been in the building more than most here in Indiana, but it doesn't mean things have been any easier -- especially for the students.
I use the "I get..." phrase a lot to help students (and myself) with perspective.
"I get to come to school."
"I get to take a test."
"I get to write an essay."
Knowing that many all over the country and the world don't have that privilege, we count our blessings daily.
I've had a lot of students quarantined - and I've been doing the "hybrid" thing - a laptop streaming while I'm teaching live. It's frustrating for all, but I tell myself that "I get to see my students" even if it's through a screen.
That means I'm grading a lot virtually - and as an AP Language teacher who usually grades a whole lotta essays, I'm always looking at the screen.
But the other day, when I was expecting a Synthesis Essay written about Monuments in the United States, I received something else. A real, unadulterated, truthful letter from a senior who just needed to say some things.
I got her permission to post pieces of it here. She speaks for all of us, I think. And her words are a breath of real, transparent, air in the middle of this crazy pandemic.
And just so you know, she got full credit for it. Because life > school. Especially now.
I don’t even know where to start.
No really, I don’t.
I’ve been sitting here for half an hour trying to get up the motivation to write this essay, but it’s just not there. That is how I’ve been feeling lately; unmotivated. Not just unmotivated, though. I’m exhausted. I’m experiencing some extreme brain fog. It is 10:00 pm as I write this, and the reason it is so late is because I forgot about this essay until now.
I’ve been very forgetful. Tired. Overwhelmed. Almost to the point of apathy. I guess apathy is the root of this “essay” now, because I could never imagine myself turning in something like this.
But I’m exhausted. And, Mrs. Wisehart, that is at no fault of your own. You have been an amazing teacher to me; my favorite teacher ever. And I’m not just saying that to suck up either. I genuinely mean that. I don’t like to lie anyways, it just always seems counterproductive and hurtful. Of all of my teachers, you have been one of the most understanding. You seem to know your students more than most other teachers know theirs, and I deeply appreciate that.
You are probably confused with reading this “essay” because this is something that I have never done before. I have never been much of a rebel, not that this is necessarily a rebellious act to begin with, and I have never abused, or have even thought about abusing, your gracious grading policy.
I have ALWAYS tried to turn assignments in on time, even when I was having a bad mental health day, or life was tough, or whatever the circumstance. This stems from the fear of getting in trouble in elementary school, whenever you would forget to do your homework, or forget to have your reading log signed, or whatever it may have been. Their main goal was to condition us into turning assignments in on time, and I mean, for me it worked.
But at what cost exactly?
Sure, I may turn in my assignments on time, which is partly why I’m turning in this “essay”. I can’t deal with the stress of being late on an assignment, but tonight, I also do not have the brain power to write an essay, so I figure this is better than nothing.
But, something seems backwards about my way of thinking. Or maybe how the schooling system has allowed me to think. Do my assignments take precedence over my happiness? Does school take precedence over my personal life?
To which I have to say; yeah. It sure feels that way most of the time.
So often, I feel like school doesn’t care about how the students are doing, so long as their grades are good. I feel like the faculty HAS to know that we’re struggling, but, at least in my opinion, they haven’t done much about it. It almost feels like they’re thinking “yeah, the students may be struggling, but those grades thoughhhh” haha. (gen z humor).
It’s ironic how the smartest people I know also tend to be the most depressed. But that is something I really appreciate about you Mrs. Wisehart, is that you acknowledge that we’re struggling. You acknowledge that our lives don’t revolve around school. That at 3:30 pm every day, we go home and (this may seem like a shock to some teachers) live personal lives.
I understand. I know that being a teacher right now cannot be easy either. I have noticed the lack of motivation in a lot of other students as well. And I get it; it can be frustrating to see the lack of motivation, receiving assignments that were due weeks, or maybe even months, ago. Maybe lack of participation in class. It’s frustrating, especially when you are so passionate about your job.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I can speak for myself. I am a high school senior in the school year of 2020-2021. Obviously, for reasons I feel don’t need to be mentioned, this has not been an ideal year. The Coronavirus pandemic has not been kind to anyone. It’s frustrating, from all sides and perspectives.
But I honestly do not feel that schools, as a whole, care.
It makes me sad to see young adults, like myself, being stripped of this crucial time in our lives. This was supposed to be our time to start a whole new chapter in our lives. To seek careers, love lives, go to graduation parties, sit with our class through a boring graduation, spend time with our friends and family, to be youthful. I never got to go to prom. I was going to go as a junior, but that got canceled. I was going to go this year, but that also got canceled. I’ve wanted to do so many things to prepare for my future, but not only did Coronavirus hinder that, school (ironically enough, since it is supposed to prepare us for our future) has hindered that as well.
I feel like a lot of the things we do in school is just busywork, like they give us assignments to ensure that we’re “learning”. But I have things outside of school that are much more productive for me personally that I would rather be doing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to complain. I know this has seemed like one giant complaining spree, but I promise you that that is not my intent. This is more of an informative essay than anything else. Or maybe it’s just a way for me to get my feelings out.
The truth is, I am grateful for school. I GET to write a synthesis essay. I GET to go to school. I’m grateful for every single thing in my life. I GET to eat a meal today. I GET to have a bed to sleep on tonight. I GET to have homework to do every night. I GET to take tests. I GET to live a life that a lot of other kids would die to have. That is why I feel terrible for even writing this essay. Who am I to “complain” when I am aware that so many people have it worse than me? This is part of the reason I do not like to open up about my issues.
I guess this is a breaking point for me.
I also want to be clear that I do not think that every teacher does not care about their students. In fact, I know that most DO. And I know that most of them do try to help. I am not even blaming the teachers.
I am blaming the school system. Not the teachers.
Sometimes, I feel as though teachers have it just as bad, if not worse, than students do. That’s an ISSUE. I am FRUSTRATED that this has not been dealt with. Lately, I have just been frustrated in general. I feel I have no control over my life anymore. Sometimes, everything seems pointless. Like this essay.
I know I’m getting a 0 on this essay (obviously, since I clearly did not follow the prompt) but at this point, does it even matter? At least I’m turning it in (in a sense). And I understand, this essay was meant to be practice to prepare us for the AP test at the end of the year. I understand the importance of that, so I promise that I will make this up at a later time, that I will continue to practice for that test. Just not tonight. I need a break.
I once heard a quote, I don’t remember who said it, but it went “no amount of sleep will help if it is the soul that is tired.” My soul is very tired right now. So much so, that one of my favorite times of day is when I go to sleep, because it is the most peace that I get. When I’m not expected to do anything. When I don’t have a constant headache from the overwhelming stress that I face on a daily basis.
However unideal my situations in life may be, I always want to be grateful for them. I am grateful for every moment that I am alive. Pre-Covid, I wanted to make senior year about taking risks, to reflect on when I am older. I guess this essay makes up for the lack of risks I was unable to take.
A fatal flaw about me is that I tend to suffer in silence. I guess this essay makes up for that as well. I am probably going to feel bad about turning this essay in when I wake up tomorrow with a clear, refreshed mind. If you read this far, I appreciate that all in itself. Thank you for listening to my thoughts and feelings, and for letting me rant. However, I feel like no matter how much I rant, I won’t be able to say everything.
I just appreciate that I have a safe place to go to talk about my feelings. I appreciate you, Mrs. Wisehart, and all that you do for your students. We all appreciate you too, even if sometimes it goes unsaid. Thank you for understanding, and for caring about our happiness more than our assignments.
Can’t wait for tomorrow, because:
I GET TO WRITE A SYNTHESIS ESSAY!