• Shaneequa Cannon

Open Letter to Our Students

My eye may be better but my heart’s not yet healed.

I still have something that needs to be said.

We failed you.

Not the You-Failed-English type of way but the We-Failed-to-Prepare-You-for-Life way.

We can talk about how your generation doesn’t care about real education, how your generation is only interested in fast money, how your generation is disrespectful and doesn’t know how to socialize in real life, how your generation is too lazy to search for answers and expects to be given them.

But we forget our part in all of this.

My generation are your parents.

My generation created the media that shows you nothing but the scourges of society.

My generation made tablets and smartphones your babysitters.

My generation is overworked and underpaid and, as a result, not there for you in the way you so desperately crave.

But it isn’t just us who failed you. School has failed you.

It locks you up in cement cages, forces you to sit for hours, and robs you of your voice, your curiosity, and your creativity.

It focuses on a test as if that is the sum of all you are, all we are.

I debated on making this letter specifically about black students but it’s about all of you. Your textbooks do not show an accurate history of the contributions made to this society by various ethnic groups and genders. By eliminating the truth, we’ve held up the lie that racism, sexism, and xenophobia are non-negotiable necessities. We fed the ignorant thoughts that ethnicity groups and female gender vary by intelligence and importance.

By not telling the truth, we’ve stopped progress.

But we also failed to protect you.

Never has an entire post-civil rights generation had to live in fear of a classmate or a radical cutting short their future in quick bursts from an automatic weapon (aside from Columbine).

And we are failing to do the right things about that.

As teachers we feel your fear, your hurt, and your uncertainty. Most of us have the same.

We are fearful for you.

But we’re hurting too and we’re uncertain as to where we go from here.

Many of us are wrestling with the thought of abandoning the profession but wanting to still be there for you, to be the kind of person we needed when we were in school.

You’ve got to meet us half way. We’ll fight for you if you will fight for yourself, your education, your future.

We want you to win.

Because, when you win, we do too.

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