As teachers, we must believe and know that the work we’re doing with young people is essential, even when it’s challenging, even when we’re not sure of our impact on students.
Sometimes, however, we receive a wonderful gift of validation and affirmation that what we do as teachers matters, profoundly.
Read the beautiful words written by one of his students delivered to Tad in a handwritten letter yesterday:
I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated our English class. Personally, I loved reading this chapter. It was painful, yet so powerful to be able to, in a way, sympathize with all the struggles, and agony that black people had and still have to overcome in the United States and all over the world. Reading everything that Baldwin had to offer makes me realize how important literature is. It is something that could bring people together; each word holds a power that could absolutely change one person’s point of view.
To be honest, I have never read anything that could move me the way “The Fire Next Time” did. Before, I would have just skimmed through, taken notes on different pages without paying any attention to the meaning between each line. But yesterday, it was different. I read, reread, and reread again, trying to dig out the layer underneath. I did not rush through it, but I took my time. And it was the most amazing experience I had ever had. There were a couple lines that stood out to me, but this specific line was exceptional:
“No doubt I am guilty of some injustice here, but it is irreducible since I cannot risk assuming that the humanity of these people is more real to them than their uniforms. Most Negroes cannot risk assuming that the humanity of white people is more real to them than their color.”
I cannot believe that after several decades, what Baldwin tries to communicate in this line still holds its truth—that most white people, somehow, still remain the same no matter how many protests, lectures, movements, have been made. And that no matter how much people of color try to rebuild the wall of justice and equality, white people are blatantly and unashamedly removing all the hard work, just so that history of white supremacy could continue on its already tainted path.
I asked myself several times: where is humanity in times like this—times of oppression, racism, homophobia, and a lot more problems? My community and other minorities have already done our best in restoring justice, but few positive consequences have taken place.
But the more I’m worried, the more I know that I’m now ready to use my everything and fight, together with everyone in this community, for the equality that we all deserve.
This letter enacts everything we strive for as teachers: deep engagement in the material, authentic resonance, powerful reflection, and a desire to take learning beyond the classroom.
Our mission as teachers is about teaching and learning, but, more importantly and fundamentally, it is about humanity. It is about enlightenment and giving our students a passion to live with purpose and meaning. It is about awareness and justice and love.
- Teaching and Learning Letters