An Open Letter to My Students

To my students:

What can I tell you that you don’t already know? I start each new year with this question, and as I sit trying to think of advice for you to take with you at the end of the year, I return to it. I believe that there isn’t much I can tell you that you don’t already know. My yoga teacher once told me, “Like the firefly, you already know how to make light. No one has to tell the firefly what to do.” You already know how to light up the world around you. The best I can do is teach you the English curriculum, give you language to express what you already know, and show you different perspectives on the world around you. And, of course, I can offer you some advice:

Don’t Worry about What to Do With Your Life

We spend a lot of time asking you what you plan to do after school, and I’m sure it worries those of you who don’t have a plan yet. Personally, it took me a while and a roundabout path to figure out what I truly wanted to do with my life. When I first decided I wanted to teach, I looked back on my life and realized that, as a little girl, I never played house or dress up; I sat my dolls in little desks and played school. Once I realized that, it was easy for me to make the right decision, because I saw that I always knew I wanted to teach, even from a young age.

You, too, already know what kind of job you want and what kind of person you want to be. Trust your instincts and choose something you love and make a positive impact on the world. You can’t go wrong that way.

Face Your Fears

Some of the scariest things in my life have been the most important and most memorable. From flying to Europe by myself to meet a tour group to facing my fear of heights to stand on the Golden Gate Bridge to learning how to speak in public without becoming a withering mess, I’m proud of the fears I’ve conquered. I still get nervous before a big speech or when I’m pitching an article, to be sure, but it hasn’t killed me yet. Furthermore, facing these fears has brought me to where I am today. It would have been really easy for me to take a desk job, refusing to get up in front of a classroom full of students, but I wouldn’t let myself do that.

I’m so glad I made it to Europe, and I love the picture of myself standing on the Golden Gate Bridge, but I’m most proud of the fact that I quieted my nerves and became a teacher, because it has changed the shape of my life for the better. Follow the fear. You’ll find that the things that scare you are often the most important things you’ll ever do, and you already know it will turn out okay in the end.

You Are Stronger than You Think You Are

For years, my mom and I have walked 39.3 miles over two days in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Somewhere around mile 20, I start to feel like I cannot take one more step. And then, somehow, I do. When we make it to the end, the closing ceremony is the most emotional, and most awesome thing I’ve ever experienced. In life, when you feel that you cannot take one more step, put one foot in front of the other and continue on. When you get to the end and look back, you’ll be proud you did, and you’ll realize you knew you could do it all along.

As we close the school year, I have faith that you will take these lessons with you, and that you will continue to search for new perspectives and make a positive impact on the world. I cannot wait to see what wonderful and important things you do with your lives, because you will do all of this and more. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

 

Related Stories:

Click! A New Generation of Feminists: from the Author of “Commencement”

From Homeless Teen to College Grad

40 States Show Improved High School Graduation Rates

Photo Credit: daveoratox

13 comments

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago

Thanks, very inspiring. :)

Jennifer P.
Jennifer P.3 years ago

thank you!

Amanda N.
Amanda S.3 years ago

What a beautiful letter. Thank you!

Lynn ManyFires
Lynn ManyFires3 years ago

A wonderful letter. Wish I had you for a teacher! I'll share this with my grandson. Thank you!

Christeen Anderson

A beautiful letter.

Kate G.
Kate G.3 years ago

beautiful, going to go back for my credential, just beautiful...crying in my coffee at 5am.

John Mccarthy
John Mccarthy3 years ago

A caring teacher is a beautiful thing.

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V.3 years ago

Be the very best that you can be but most of all don't let anyone ELSE decide your path.

We need many teachers like this one.

June L.
June Lacy3 years ago

wow!! what a letter......what a teacher........I give you a standing ovation.

Cyrille D.
Cyrille D.3 years ago

Very beautiful letter, Ashley. It is all so true ! I believe we're all on earth for a reason. Each person is different and so is each path. But what they all have in common is a goal, a purpose. Some will find it earlier than others, but, eventually, we all stumble upon it somehow. So, live life to the fullest, stay true to yourself, do what you love with love and you'll be certain to find your way ! :)