Currently, most of my students are teachers. However, I do have a 9th grade advisory, 9th grade lunch table, and I work with middle school and upper school tech clubs. So, I will split this letter in two: one for 9th graders and the other for established teachers.
A letter to 9th graders:
Last week, I spent three days camped out in the wilderness with 130 of you. You never slowed down. Even when I thought it humanly impossible, you kept moving, fidgeting, talking, screaming, singing, running. You are bounds of energy. You mutli-task like there's no tomorrow. For the first time in my life, I legitimately felt old.
We complain about your immaturity, your endless chatter, and your constant fidgeting, but that is what gives you life. With that, you are excited about life. Being "old," I see others get burnt out. They stop fidgeting, they stop chattering, they stop being excited. They stop learning.
Never stop learning. You're never too cool to learn. Someone else always knows something you don't. Surround yourself with others who build you up, but remember that you alone are enough. Others will not provide you happiness. Objects will not provide you happiness. Only you can determine whether you are happy. Don't search your whole life for happiness only to find (or not) that it's within you.
You only have one life. Until recently, I heard this and I understood it, but it didn't relate to me. It was like an old battle to me. I know it happened and it was horrific, but I could not relate to it. I get it now. You only have one life. You will never be a 14-15 year old again. Enjoy it, but don't make it damage who you are as a 30, 40, 50, 70, 100 year-old.
Remember: live like it's no one's business. Learn. Learn as much as you can - not because someone told you to, but because you want to. You decide your happiness. You are enough. So, find what's inside you that makes you happy.
A letter to teachers:
Don't be afraid to not know it all. We all say we are okay with this, but in practice, this is often far from the truth. We chastise the use of technology often because we don't understand it. And, when we don't understand it, we deem it hard to manage. And, if we can't manage it, we don't want it.
But, you need to stop managing everything. Part of this is due to standards dictated by those higher than us. We can't change policy overnight, but we can start.
Be the student you want to have. Keep learning. Never stop. When you feel burned out, seek help or reflect on your profession. You need to be happy too.
Though short, I think both letters can be applied to the same audience. We need to encourage life-long learning and happiness.
What would you say to your learners?