The school year has begun, and I want to remind my seniors that, though a year of hard work lies ahead of them, they have successfully completed 12 years of education. Senior year is the 13th, and last year, that students will experience within the K-12 public education system. College applications and acceptances will begin to pile up on students’ desks, job applications will be filled out by those few students who have found their passion outside of the academic realm, and I will see my young women and men walk the stage this coming summer.
As excitement fills my students’ minds and hearts while they take in the events taking place in a few months, I also ask them to pause, and instead of looking ahead, I ask that they look back. I want them to look back on the 12 years of education that they have experienced in the Bay Area.
What are the two, or three, most impactful experiences you’ve had in elementary, middle, and high school? Which adults have had the biggest impact in your education trajectory? What memories have helped shape your academic identity?
These are the questions I asked my high school seniors five weeks ago, and here are some of their reflections:
“My third grade teacher had the biggest impact on me because I did not speak English, so he helped me when I did not understand the work.”
“My seventh grade Leadership teacher had the biggest impact on me because he actually lectured everyday, unlike the rest of my teachers.”
“I think that the Instructional Aide at my elementary school had the biggest impact on me because she always asked how I was. She didn’t just care about my school work. She also cared about me as a person.”
“My biggest memory from middle school is being told by my parents that I’d never be good enough to do well in school. Those words still motivate me today to do as good as I can in school.”
“The adult that impacted me the most is Ms. O because last year I really didn’t find a point to school, but she has made everything more engaging in school, and now I am doing really good.”
As my students reflected on their education trajectory, I reflected on the privilege I have to teach students after 12 years of work that other educators have invested in each of my students. I did not teach my students how to read, how to write, how to think critically—all of that was taught to them by educators who came before me. I have the honor to reap the benefits of my students’ hard work along with the work educators who came before me have invested.
I know that it has not been many educators who have worked to educate our kids, as is plainly clear in my students’ reflections, but for those few elementary, middle, and high school teachers who pour their heart and soul into students, I thank you. Your work is important, transcendent, and deeply inspiring. And to our students, thank you. Your hard work has brought you to the cusp of your future. Keep on fighting and working hard. You are worthy of your success.
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