A Letter to Students

Dear students,

Welcome to a new semester. I am excited to see you again, and to meet those of you whom I only know from hallways, trips, and staff meeting conversations. However our journey unfolds, I know that we will grow, make memories, struggle, overcome challenges, and learn together.

Currently in my tenth year in the classroom, I have somewhat of an identity as a teacher. Although it is still changing and evolving, and always will, as long as I have students from whom to learn, there are some beliefs that will continue to shape who I am as a teacher, as well as what and how I teach.

I would like to share some of the most fundamental of these beliefs, and explain how they will impact our interactions and experiences in this classroom.

First and foremost, I believe in equality. What this means to me as your teacher is that whatever race, ethnicity, gender, birthplace, sexuality, political ideology, culture, language, and way of being define you, I see you and will treat you as equally hopeful, important, and promising. It means that, although I will work hard to meet all your individual learning needs and goals, I will hold you all equally responsible for rising, whatever that means to each of you. Of course, we will spend a lot of time in this class talking about what equality means and exploring the idea of equality in the context of literature and history. Finally, my belief in equality means that you and I are equals–in that we all have things to learn, we all have room to grow, and we all owe each other to be the best that we can be.

Second, I believe in opportunity. This means that whatever our relationship may have been like in the past, whatever mistakes we might have made, we all deserve a chance to start fresh, reinvent ourselves, and grow. This also means that I will expose you to texts, films, music, and ideas that might be unfamiliar, or difficult, sometimes, even uncomfortable. I will challenge you. Every day. I will encourage you to abandon the phrase “passing your class” and to embrace the verb to excel. Even though I understand and respect the challenges and frustration you have experienced in the past with learning, reading, writing, expressing yourselves, in this classroom, you will be expected to work on all these things, as if your life depends on it. All this is because you deserve the opportunity to receive a rigorous education, to be treated like respectable scholars, and to feel, every day, that I believe in you.

Finally, I believe in the power of knowledge and learning. This means that everything we do in this classroom will aim to empower you and help you rise. From the materials we study to the ideas we explore and the questions we seek to answer, we will strive to learn from history, honor the great writers, artists, thinkers and social justice activists who have paved the way for us, and use what we learn to better ourselves and our world. We will talk about race, class, gender, culture, language, identity, tradition, always with the goal to better understand ourselves and each other, as well as the world in which we live. It is my hope, and will be my goal as your teacher, that you will leave this classroom in June armed with the confidence and skills to get to where you choose go. My belief in the power of learning also means that I will seek to empower myself by learning from you. I have profound respect for your experiences, thoughts, and dreams. I hope you will trust me enough to allow me to learn from you.

Thank you for reading my letter.

Now, on to your first writing assignment:

Write a letter addressed to the class, in which you share two or three beliefs or values that are important to you, and explain how they will shape our interactions and experiences in this classroom.

You have before you a blank page to fill. What kind of student will you choose to be? How much of yourself will you invest in this class? How much will you choose to gain from the experiences we will share?

I look forward to reading your letters, and to the journey ahead.

Big love,

Maryam

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