An Open Letter To My Students
(Because that’s never been done before…)
To any of my students past or present,
Should any of you ever find this by accident, hello! I hope life is treating you okay.
I am writing this to you because there are some things that I want you to know. Some things that I wish I could tell you in class, but that our situation doesn’t exactly allow for.
I know some of you would understand me, but for many it would fall on deaf ears. So I’m writing it here.
The first thing I want you to know is that I love you. I know I know, you’re in middle school so that might be the last thing you want to hear. But before anything else I want you to know how much I love being your teacher. I know that you only have my class once a week, I know that many of you don’t always understand me, I know that the role I play in your life is significantly less than the role you play in mine. But nevertheless I love you. Each one of you.
When you tell me little things about your life, I remember them. When I ask how you’re doing, I actually want to know. Are you sick, excited, hurting, happy, worried?
I want you to know that I celebrate each of your successes however small they may be. I want you to know that I cherish our conversations in the deepest part of my heart because I know they were earned. I know that engaging with me is not always easy for you and trust me your efforts have never and will never go un-appreciated.
To you who faithfully greet me every single morning in the hallway, to you who sweep around my desk in the afternoon and joke with me like any other teacher, to you who try to talk to me even when the words don’t come easily, and to you whose face brightens up a little when it is time for my class; thank you. You truly have no idea how much you mean to me.
But I also desperately need you to understand that I am just a person. I hear every laugh earned at my expense. I speak, and more importantly can understand, Korean much better than any of you know. When you call me by my first name without a title, I am deeply aware of how disrespectful that is in your culture. When you speak about me in Korean without honorifics, I know it. When you say things to me that you would never say to a Korean teacher, I feel it.
I want you to know that I might be a “foreigner” in this country but that I am just a person. You might think it’s funny the way I speak or eat or think but I hope you are mature enough to realize that you feel that way because you have never known anything else.
I want you to understand that the world is so big and there is so much to see and learn. And that once you know that there are many equally valid ways to live life, then maybe you will realize that no one is really a “foreigner.” We are all just people.
I might be a foreigner in Korea but there are plenty of things you do that are completely foreign to me. There are things about your culture that I cannot reconcile with mine. Things I will never, despite my genuine efforts to try, be able to understand.
I want you to know that living here is not always easy for me. I wake up everyday excited to see your faces and for the chance to teach you a little bit of how big and exciting the world is. But I wake up everyday 7,000 miles away from every one I have ever loved, every person and place that has shaped me into the person who stands in front of you. I am here because I believe it is worth doing, not because it is easy.
But that’s not what I want you to take away from this.
I want you to remember about me is how much I cared about you so that, maybe, just maybe, you can see how small the world truly is.
That I ended up here, in this city, in this neighborhood, in this school, in your classroom is nothing short of a miracle. I want you to realize that the fact that I could love you as much as I do, despite language, culture, age, and every other difference, that should surely mean that the rest of the world is worth exploring and knowing.
I want you to know that you are loved, you are important, you are special, and that you should be kind to everyone especially those people who are different from you.
I have loved being your teacher and will love it until the moment I leave. Until then work hard, don’t worry so much about your test scores, be good, and know that everyday when you say hello to me it makes my day a little better.
Lots of love,