This letter is dedicated to students, parents, and teachers who are on the front lines of the homework battles.
You don’t do my homework, but I’m not going to address that now. I prefer to consider your strengths.
I want you here. We are not in a war, and if you think we are, I surrender. Please, no battles; I want YOU to win.
Let’s build on what you do well, Johnny. Here’s what I know about you:
You’re perceptive, Johnny. You can read others. Cultivate those kids who no one else will cultivate. Find their strengths and their interests. If anybody can get to them, you can. You might be surprised to learn that one of those kids can offer something special to you too.
You need a lectern, Johnny, for that powerful voice of yours. OK, so sometimes I call it your big mouth, but when I throw out questions like, “Agree or disagree? Andrew Jackson was a friend of Native Americans,” you love to share your thoughts, and you are a born speaker. (Please try to wait until I call on you so that other people get a chance to think too.)
- Using academic language will make you sound even smarter, and because you are a leader, your classmates will follow your example. I’ll show you how to back up your ideas, with true evidence. The debate team awaits you, my friend.
You have a very strong moral code, Johnny, sticking up for the underdog—even if it is against the school authority.
Others may not know this, but I know that School Johnny is very different than Home Johnny. On the block, Home Johnny helps the old people carry their packages, walks his little sister to school, and sings his heart out in the church choir.
You can make the other kids in the class laugh. Yes. I know you drive us all crazy, Johnny, but the ability to make others laugh is really a gift. I’d like to celebrate that strength with you.
Please know, Johnny, that I like to laugh too, at myself and at all the crazy stuff that goes on in our class. We teachers are human too, even though we sleep in our coffins. A little secret—often when a kid like you is giving me a hard time, I imagine him at home in his bed, wearing his pj’s (the ones with the feet), and clutching his teddy bear, Then I smile and I keep on going.
Feel free to do the same with me, even if you need to substitute my coffin for the bed.
It is not me against you, Johnny. We’re in this together, and I want YOU to win!