Our dear students, tomorrow’s leaders

by 42 local high school teachers, counselors, and para-educators

Because we cannot see you and speak to you face-to-face we, your teachers and counselors, hope to reach you now. We feel we cannot remain silent. If you have been paying attention, you may have learned more in the last twelve weeks than you would have learned in the classroom.

Faced with challenges, do we flee to find a safe place, abandoning those who are suffering around us? Or do we play our part and help in the changes that drive society? Do we resist in the face of injustice, even at the risk of suffering? Do we act, engage, change? Or do we ignore injustice and ignorance with excuses of “that’s life,” “life’s not fair,” “that’s how it goes,” and “that’s not our problem?” In the future, we hope that we will be proud of the things we did rather than feel shame at the things we did not do in these difficult times.

The current crisis about race in our nation and pandemic have exposed monumental challenges. We must acknowledge that many of us benefit from the inequalities and inequities that plague friends and classmates. Call to mind the representations of peoples from textbooks, the euro-centric maps, the emphasis on United States’ history through many years of school, the many English language books you read and the few translations, the restrooms that matched your biological gender, the discrepancies in the ethnic make-up of AP, honor, regular classes and school sites. Privilege has embedded itself into our political system, corrupted it, and robbed us of our democracy.

We, as teachers, recognize that we have come up short. We have not sufficiently looked inward to ourselves, our classrooms, and our schools; we have not addressed the inevitable but fatal subconscious biases that infect our practices and our interactions with you, our own shortcomings, our own privilege, our own racism. We have not always engaged in the uncomfortable conversations that must be had. We are part of a system within a system that perpetuates and reinforces inequality, inequity, and injustice. Often, it has been you who has taught us and, often, it was we who were wrong not to listen.

We acknowledge that, in our days of confinement, we all had reason to stay safe, that the situations were frightening, that we were right to feel danger. Yes, we love you, but we cannot assure you that you will always be safe. No longer can we hide from you the harshness of our world. We cannot protect you from all things. Instead, we call on you to step up or to reach out, that we might help you step up and that you may help us learn, grow, and serve.

We pledge our good will, positive thoughts, help and hope; we pledge our commitment to action, resolve to respond, and we promise to provide learning opportunities to work through these challenges together.

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