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.
As a student of color, I would like you to listen to me. As I grow into adulthood and increasingly see the world as the hostile place it can be, I want you to make my education a safe space. I want to feel like school is where I can be sheltered from discrimination, and from looks, actions, and words I may have to face outside every day. Understand that I am dealing with the complex discovery of what it is to be a person of color in today’s society. Understand that you may have to put an additional effort in how you act and what you say when students of color are in your class, but do so quietly, as we already feel seen and different so often in international education. Realize that any discomfort you feel in making me comfortable is noticed and appreciated. In doing so you are making me feel seen in a positive way, different but celebrated.
When I have a complaint, whether I have proof or not of an event or a concrete conversation, listen to me. Know that I may be tired of explaining to others what it feels like to stand out. Know that I sometimes may not be able to articulate exactly why and how I feel set apart. But listen nonetheless. Do not bombard me with questions, as if my story is incomplete or unbelievable because you may not understand where I come from. That will only deter me from expressing my discomfort, and will push me to deal with these issues by myself. Know that if I complain about an isolated event, there is often more to it. I would not speak if I felt like I fit in.
Check up on me. If we feel like I am set apart I may not want to speak. I may be too tired to speak. But make sure I always feel like, when I am ready, I can express myself, and you will be ready to listen. Know that, whether you too are a teacher of color or not, you may not understand my experiences. Make me feel like they are valued nonetheless. Try to make me immersed. Make an effort to include other people of color in my environment and understand that they may be the only people I feel comfortable with. Remember that I may speak and I may not, but that does not determine how difficult my experience is. The student that advocates the most may not be the most affected. But by making it clear that I am a priority, and giving me space, you are allowing me to deal with discrimination in the way I prefer.
As a teenager I may not always be able to articulate why and how I feel the way I do, but be patient with me, and understand that there is often more to my story than I want to express. That even small events can feel overwhelming when they are added to the isolation of being a teenager of color in a predominantly white environment.
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 Teachers
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.
Héloïse is a year 13 student at The International School of Geneva.