A Letter to Students: 3 Things We Can Do, Together

 

Dear Student,

 

I want you to know I appreciate you. Some of you I know very well. Others I have yet to meet.

 

AND, I appreciate you. All of you.

 

Your presence gives me hope.

Your hope gives me presence.

 

Your clarity gives me strength.

Your strength gives me clarity.

 

Your motivation gives me confidence.

Your confidence gives me motivation.

 

Your ability to keep learning, growing, and fighting for what’s right gives me hope.

Your ability to keep listening, loving, and never giving up on your future gives me hope.

 

No matter who you are or where you live, you represent the future. You represent hope, presence, strength, clarity, motivation, and confidence. In all of your unique, textured glory.

 

You know the difference between right and wrong, and that’s why I’m writing you today…

 

Yesterday a big decision was made about who will lead the education system for the next four years.

 

A decision was made in the final hour, after much debate and discussion. Betsy DeVos was put into the highest office in the Office of Education in our country, and a lot of people don’t agree with this decision. Many people are upset and frustrated, because they feel she’s not qualified for the job. Also, a lot of people believe the decision was made unfairly.

 

 

Many people are worried that DeVos will make big changes to public schools. Sometimes big changes in education mean budget-cuts and/or having to take new and different tests. Sometimes the worst-case scenario pops into people’s minds, and they process their fears out-loud.

 

 

A lot of what we’re all feeling comes down to this: big changes aren’t easy. Especially when fairness is involved.

 

 

Sometimes the people with the most power and money end up with the most control.

 

Does that mean it’s right?

Does that mean it’s fair?

 

I have a feeling you know the answer.

 

You have special radars for fairness that are unique to your experience.

 

You can smell a bully from a playground away.

 

So, what do we do when we’re faced with these types of big changes?

 

If you’re watching the news these days, you might see people making bad decisions daily. You might see the harm that anger and violence can cause an entire community.

 

And I believe you know deep down what works and what doesn’t.

 

I believe two things can be true at the same time: we can feel all the feelings that come with big changes and unfairness, AND we can stay hopeful and focused on making tomorrow better.

 

This is why I’m urging us to do these 3 things together.

 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

  1. PAUSE. Before doing anything else, I think it’s important to take a minute—before acting—to really think about the impact of our words. We need to take a moment to process the feelings and emotions are coming up for us.
  2. MOVE. We need to let go of negativity in positive and productive ways without hurting others.
  3. SPEAK UP. I think you know what you need and deserve, so it’s time to speak up.

 

WHY THOSE 3 THINGS?

  1. Processing is important. Writing and art help our brain make sense of what’s going on. Journaling, drawing, and talking with people we trust helps us process our thoughts and feelings. Also, your race, citizenship status, and gender help shape how you’re feeling and thinking about what’s going on. Given that you may be getting various/conflicting messages about this from the people in your life (who may share your identity or not), it’s important to process what’s coming up for you, given who you are.
  2. Moving our bodies helps us work through those feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Running, dancing, singing, stretching, shaking-it-out, and playing outdoors—all of those things help us RELEASE the negative energy that’s inside of our body and needs to get out.
  3. Your voice matters. Given that we can’t change the past but we can influence the future, I’m asking that you join me in speaking up. Your voice deserves to be heard.

 

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY SPEAK UP? 

 

Here’s one way:

Write a letter to the Secretary of Education letting her know what you need and expect.

Let her know what you like about your school and what you hope to see improve. Share with her as many details as you’d like about your school and what you don’t want her to change. Speak from your heart. You could even make a video if you want to get creative.  Feel free to let her know why you think it’s important for ALL students–regardless of their skin color, zip-code, sexual orientation, and home language–to have access to a quality education if that’s something you believe. 

 

Here’s a draft sample letter template you could use/add to (as a starting place), which includes the mailing address.

 

Here’s another idea:

Write a letter to a teacher or adult who you trust, and tell them what you need from them right now. You might tell them what it looks like to listen to and support you right now. You might tell them how you process things during big changes. You might let them know what you need from them. You might even let them know about what your favorite teacher and leader do in times of big changes. Bottom line: make sure to communicate to them. No one should be alone during big changes.

 

Here’s a draft letter (template) that you could use/add to, in case it’s helpful to have a starting place. 

 

For both letters, I’d encourage you to hand-write them so they feel your energy and presence. Make them your own! 🙂

 

Bottom line: Your voice matters. Our voices can and will be heard—together.

 

I’ll close and leave you with a few final words…

 

 

 

Someday, one of you will be our president and another one of you will be our Secretary of Education fighting for justice for ALL. I’ll look back on this moment with pride.

 

Finally, I want to share my poem to you one more time:

 

I appreciate you. All of you.

 

All of you.

 

Your presence gives me hope.

Your hope gives me presence.

 

Your clarity gives me strength.

Your strength gives me clarity.

 

Your motivation gives me confidence.

Your confidence gives me motivation.

 

To keep learning, growing, and fighting for what’s right.

To keep listening, loving, and never giving up.

 

Thank you. Thank ALL of you.

 

With love for justice,

Rachel Rosen

 

 

 

NOW: I’d love to hear from YOU. What did you think of these 3 ideas? What other ideas do you have that we could do together? What are YOUR reactions and thoughts to what’s going on in the world? What supports do you need? Please comment below and share your letters with me. I’d love to hear from you. 

 

A NOTE TO EDUCATORS: 

How we support young people to become more aware of and grounded in their identity(ies) really matters. How a young person may experience this moment is rooted in their identity and experiences.  As my brilliant colleague, Tom Malarky, said, “Our ability to see clearly and feel strength is supported by how we’re grounded in our identity – without shame, guilt, etc.”  We must seek out people/places for conversation and support – both within and across difference.

What does YOUR letter to students look like?

I’d love to hear your reactions and reflections to mine–just comment below or email me.

Also, let’s support one another. No need for anyone to be reinventing the wheel or working in isolation right now. Please share any links to resources/videos/tools/strategies/templates that you’re finding helpful. They could be around processing current events with your students, or they could be other tips/strategies. Depending on how many we get back, if you share them in the comments below or email them to me, I could compile a resource guide for folks if it’s helpful.

 

HERE ARE SOME QUICK LINKS TO GET US STARTED: 

 

We can and will get through this together.

 

*FINALLY: Please pass this on if you found it helpful*

 


Rachel Rosen is a coach and a facilitator. She was a teacher and Administrator for 9 years in Oakland and now works as an Associate at the National Equity Project, an educational nonprofit that provides equity-focused professional development for school districts. They believe every child in America has the right to a quality education, and they support leaders to make good on that promise.

She’s also the Founder of SPARK! For Humanity, an interactive card game that serves to facilitate three things that Rachel cares deeply about: 1) building empathy with others, 2) raising-awareness of how a person’s identity impacts their experience in the world, and 3) slowing down to connect in meaningful ways. Interested in playing? Download the sample deck at the bottom of the home pagepurchase your own deck, and/or learn more about it here. It’s a great tool for facilitating meaningful conversations in your community.

 

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