In the spirit of listening and elevating student voices, the Dear Teacher series designates a space to have these voices heard. The purpose of this series is to create a respectful, solution orientated platform for student voices to be amplified into positive change. Students from around the world can write anonymous letters to unnamed teachers giving light to what they wished teachers knew, how they can feel more seen, or how they believe their learning experiences can be improved.
The events of recent years have greatly influenced my attitude towards the world and deeply affected me. In this story, I tried to share with you my life experiences over the past two years. I hope that after reading my story of realization many students and teachers will be able to put themselves in my shoes and, perhaps, this will help them understand that they are not alone in their feelings.
If I was asked a couple of years ago if I have fears that disturb me and make me suffer, I would probably laugh, “What fears? What are you talking about? Well, not unless you take my ball away and forbid me to play basketball because for me it's like losing a hand.” I thought so then, but not now. Fear is normal human behavior. We human beings fear many things but most of all we fear changes that can influence our lives, which can destroy the world inside us, which can throw us out of our comfort zone and often we are not able to find the way back. Two events in my life caused terrible fears and helped me to understand very important things that I have never thought much about before.
I'm an ordinary student and my life does not differ much from other boys of my age.
I go to school, try to succeed in my studies, and I am always happy to chat with someone. I like sports, and basketball is my passion. To tell the truth, I enjoy playing basketball a lot and in the last few years, it has become the meaning of my life. I play for a local club, and I want to do my best to help my team win games. I can't imagine my life without this sport, without training, without travelling to competitions. “If you are not in a mood, take the ball and go to the court,” my coach says. I follow this rule and the ball is my cure for all diseases. I want to believe in it, but now it’s probably better to say I would like to believe in it. The events of recent years have proven otherwise. Now there is no certainty that the ball will help me to feel safe because there are fears that show me that the possession of the ball will not protect you from dangers and will not give you a sense of confidence in the game called life, because it stops being a game as it suddenly turns into reality.
In my middle school years, my transition from childhood to teenage years was rather strange and brought my first fears. It made me look at my life differently. One usual morning when I hurried to school, my mom said, “Probably, you will go for distance learning now because of Covid. The virus is spreading rapidly, and it is all over the world.” I did not pay much attention to her words. However, at the end of the week, her phrase popped into my head again when the principal and our teachers explained to us what distance learning is and how we should behave now during a pandemic. We had to stay at home and study online using a special program called Zoom. It meant that we did not need to go to school at all and all the tasks and tests had to be done at home. My friends and I were quite excited to have such a change in our lives. “Imagine, guys! We don’t have to jump up every morning and rush to school! We can study in pyjamas right out of our beds! This is a dream of every student!” Everyone rejoiced. I was also looking forward to new and positive changes in my schedule like snacking when I wanted, doing tasks when it suited me, and enjoying the freedom of being in a comfortable and pleasant environment. Days and weeks passed and our distance learning during the pandemic was for me like a holiday in the Bahamas. My mornings were not so stressful anymore. I was chilling in my room and the teachers tried to not overload us with tasks. It was like a paradise. I wished it would go on and on. “Maybe this is how it should always be.” I wondered. “Why not learn this way all the time?” I dreamed.
However, nothing can last forever and someday your paradise, your shelter can turn into ruins that will take a very long time to put together like a puzzle in order to return what was before. I experienced it when my carefree and easy-going life turned into a nightmare in which fears haunted and haunted me. The virus attacked the planet. The news screamed about how dangerous the virus was, and how it was snapping away numerous lives like it was in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet. Everything around was closed, the planes did not fly, the trains did not run, and the streets were no longer filled with people. “Wear a mask! Keep the distance!” These phrases appeared from all the media, and they clearly cut into my brain, like a prayer! I felt weak as some invisible force sucked my energy out like leeches would suck blood. I looked at the ball that was lying alone in the corner of my room and seemed to whisper the words of my coach, 'If you are not in a mood, take the ball and go to the court.” But the hands were bound by invisible chains. “How does it help me!? If I take the ball where I can go? My club is closed and I have not played for a month.” I said to myself. My parents encouraged me, but I felt that they were also scared of this situation. One day I tried to go to the outdoor court where I always played basketball. Usually, the court was full of people who play different sports. It was full of sounds of children's laughter, sounds of bells and sounds of dogs barking. Sometimes I was even annoyed by such a large number of people’s voices and loud sounds. But now I listened only to the silence. It made me angrier and put me in a panic. I wanted to scream, “People! Come here! It's fun here! Where are you?” I realized for a moment that I wanted to return everything back! I wanted to go to school and train again! I wanted to see my friends and shake their hands! I wanted to never experience this bone-chilling fear! My brain denied this reality and did not want to accept it. “What else could happen worse than this?” I could not imagine then, but the worst still waited for the right moment to attack me like a wild beast and tear to shreds everything that I love.
I'll never forget that day. My mother cried and cried. I did not know what to do because my grandfather fell ill, and he was in a very bad condition. He was taken away in an ambulance and connected to a special machine so that he could breathe. We prayed for his recovery, we prayed for a miracle. The world went from under my feet, it slowly crumbled into pieces like a sandcastle washed away by a wave. The person I love, who supported me in everything, listened to my stupid talks, and always cheered for me during basketball matches, could die! I realized how fragile human life is; how it is unfair; how it is cruel and how it is hard to fight with uncertainty. I was thinking how it was great to have magic power, to be a Superman, in order to protect my grandfather and save thousands of others. Something incredible happened in my heart. It was like I was walking down the street enjoying the sun and warmth and instantly an angry dog attacked me and started barking loudly nonstop. My heart was pounding and I wanted to run away. But wherever I ran away, this dog appeared again and again, and its barking pulsated in my head so strongly that I thought that I would blow up, like a balloon that got popped by a sharp needle.
Life is unpredictable. You may have your own plan, you may think about how to implement it, but you never know what will happen tomorrow! You can never run and hide from what reaches you in one second and stays with you for a long time. You can never run away from your fear! Your plan will fail and what you considered salvation in ordinary life will not help you under other circumstances. How my ball won't save me and much less save my grandfather. That's what I understood in those days! But time passes, makes its own changes, and adds new colors to our life. My grandfather recovered despite being in the hospital for two months. We are back at school and I am playing basketball again. Vaccines against Covid have been developed and the world knows how to fight the virus. However, the virus stayed with us, as did masks and safe distances. The world began to return to normal life again, like a young tree trying to reach for the sun during spring. These difficult times of the pandemic taught me to live in the real moment and appreciate and protect what I have.
What about fears? Well, they left me for a while, and I started to breathe again evenly and calmly. Confidence in the future began to return to me. And I would say that it will be so forever, but…One morning not so long ago when I was on holiday at my grandfather’s house, I woke up and looked around. It was fabulous weather outside! I was looking forward to tasting my grandmother's delicious breakfast and then going with my grandfather to explore the surroundings. I ran into the kitchen with a smile stretched from ear to ear but my grandfather sat with his head down and mumbled, “The war has begun.” He was so pale and his eyes were so sad, like those of an old dog that was dragged for a walk, but it just wants to lie in its calm nook. “War?” “What war? What nonsense?” I asked, hoping for an answer. Grandfather was silent. He could not speak because he did not understand what was happening. His appearance spoke for him. His appearance screamed for him that it was something terrible. I again remembered my mom and the morning two years ago, the pandemic and my distance learning. My fear came again. It came to warn me. And this time it probably wanted to stay with me for a long time. I have a new struggle within myself. How will the world change now? What will we do? Where should we go next? Lots of questions and no answers yet. But definitely, for sure, I realized that there is something that can turn everything upside down and make you grow up as fast as possible. And I am the only one who can cope with it and overcome my own fears. I am the only one who can decide to win or lose in this game, and I am the only one who can choose which way to go.
To submit to the Dear Teachers Series: Encourage your students to think about what would benefit them in the development of their education, big picture ideas or small everyday practices, and let them write freely. Email the submissions with the subject Dear Teacher to [email protected] with your grade and country name only.
Title: Dear Teacher/s
Purpose: To inform and suggest solutions to implement positive changes.
Prompts: What would you like to see happening in your school or classroom? What steps or processes would work for you? What ways could your education be geared towards your needs?
Content: No teacher or school names should be mentioned.
Your voices matter and we look forward to sharing your views. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Timur is a student at the International School of Helsinki, in Grade 9. His nationality is a mixture of Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatarian blood. His father moved to Finland with his parents 28 years ago from Estonia, Tallinn. He met his mother, who moved to Finland from Russia, in St. Petersburg 18 years ago. He was born in Finland but has a lot of relatives and friends in other countries, both Russia and Estonia. He is a student passionate about basketball and plays for a local club in Helsinki. Every day he tries to balance sports and his studies.