An Open Letter From A Teacher To Her Students: 'You Are Loved'

by April Marie Gott Walker
FatCamera / iStock

To my immigrant and refugee students, I am a better educator because I have worked with you. You have taught me that there is more to the school day than academics and checking off the standards. Through you, I have learned to respect other cultures, to embrace change and difference, and to test my own perspectives. Through you, I have learned that teaching in the real world is much different than how it was portrayed in my college textbooks.

Every learner is different, that I knew. But with each learner bringing their strengths and challenges to the table, you have so much more to offer. Because of your cultural diversities and your worldly experiences, you come from families that have much to share. Along with your strengths, comes wisdom beyond your years. Along with your challenges, comes an opportunity to educate your educators about a world beyond our upbringing.

Always share yourselves freely, and don’t acclimate to the point of losing your identity. Be proud of the family who is raising you, and confident that the classroom community that you spend your day with is proud of you too. To my refugee and immigrant students, you are loved.

To my immigrant and refugee families, oh, how you are loved! With tears in my eyes, I can assure you that there are not enough kind words or expressions to accurately portray my admiration for you. You have shown me the meaning of hard work. You have taught me about dedication, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles that human beings shouldn’t be faced with.

You have fled your war-torn countries with unimaginable pain in your hearts and unfathomable hope for your families. I see you working more than one job. I see you taking English classes at night and studying for your citizenship test between school pickups and drop-offs. I see you making sacrifices for yourselves in order to give your children opportunities you didn’t have. I’ve cried with you as you’ve said goodbye to family members without the physical proximity that should come with those goodbyes.

When money, distance, and jobs come before your family in other parts of the world, my heart hurts that you have to make those choices. Choices that many of us have never considered. I’ve watched you struggle with the daily question of whether or not all of these sacrifices are paying off. You have welcomed me into your homes, broken bread with the white stranger you didn’t know, bared your souls at conferences, let me into your hearts, and I assure you, you became a fixture in mine. Together, we have shared birthday parties and soccer games, exchanged holiday happenings and family photos.

Together, we have taken our relationship beyond the classroom and come to understand one another as human beings who are simply trying to do our best. I may be your child’s teacher, but the real lessons have come from you. To my immigrant and refugee families, you are loved.

To my students with disabilities and learning challenges, you inspire me daily. You have so much to offer this world. Although you might recently feel like the larger world doesn’t have your back, you need to know that the small community that surrounds you most certainly does. Your teachers will not stop tirelessly working for you. Your teachers will not stop rallying for your rights. Your teachers will not stop attending meetings with your parents so that we can work together to help you be the most successful version of you that is possible. To my students with disabilities and learning challenges, you are loved.

To my fellow teaching community, I am proud to stand with you. We know the hard work that it takes to make public schools run. We know the hardships and the obstacles that come our way on a daily basis, as well as all of the red tape that we must go through just to be given the opportunity to simply teach. From overly ambitious initiatives without follow-through, to budget cuts that leave us scrambling, we have been knocked down before. This is not new to us, nor is it something that will send us running. We will be brave for one another, we will be strong for our students, and we will passionately fight for our school families. To every teacher in a public school around our great nation, you are loved.

To the ignorant and fearful, who not only voted for hate, but applaud it daily, I love you through gritted teeth and inability to comprehend. I tell myself you’ve never been blessed with an opportunity to open your arms and hearts to a Muslim neighbor or a Latino friend. I remind myself that not everyone grew up in a house where love was the message and kindness was a rule. I respect others’ opinions, even if I don’t agree with them. I respect the freedoms laid out in our constitution that allow us to freely think and speak. I hope that never changes. To the fearful of our nation, looking for “someone else to blame,” you are loved.