By Rachel Bell, Teacher, Windham, Maine
Mr. President and Members of Congress,
I am writing to you today as one voice for teachers united with and concerned for our students and our community. I have a request…a favor if you will…or maybe, at this point, it’s become a plea.
I am a fifth-grade teacher and we are currently studying about our amazing country and how the government works. We are learning about the Constitution, what elected officials are, why they are elected (to represent and protect us everyday people) and checks and balances (making sure no one branch’s power gets too great). We also work (tirelessly) every day to help the students we love become the best people they can be. We strive to help them grow to be compassionate human beings, respectful of others and themselves, and to spread kindness and tolerance to people they meet.
I am finding it to be a daunting task these days…
My students ask questions. They ask hard questions and they ask honest questions. They ask why those we elected into office don’t always think about what is best for us…We The People. They ask why those we elected into office aren’t always empathetic or kind or respectful to each other or to We The People. In a Zero-Tolerance for Bullying environment, that our school is, they ask why is it ok that the people running our country bully others when we are trying to teach them that is not ok. They want to know why the people who run our country argue with each other in ways that are hurtful and not working together to problem solve when we are trying to teach them successful ways to express our feelings while also listening and respecting the feelings of others…and then coming together to compromise.
I do not have all the answers to these impossible, yet necessary, questions they ask…
So, today, I have a request of you Mr. President and Members of Congress…because these small, beautiful young people are watching you. They are watching you carefully and, as we all know, one of the most powerful learning tools is modeling.
You are not modeling what our young generation needs…
I respectfully and sincerely ask you to stop. Please. Just. Stop.
I ask you to look inside yourself and look at those around you, whom we have put our trust and faith in…and ask yourself the questions that the students would ask if you were face to face with them in a classroom.
“Am I doing right by the generations to come?”
“Was I respectful and used kind words, not hurtful ones?”
“Was I kind and did I help someone today?”
“At the end of the day, am I proud of the person I was that day?”
These, and many other questions are necessary when you are looking into the faces of children who admire you, who trust you and who look to you for guidance and modeling.
I was called to teaching. It is not a “job” for me but, rather, it is a way of life. I wake up every day and think about the kind of person I want to be and the kind of people I hope my students will be. I try my best…each and every single day…to model respect, kindness and compassion. I see my colleagues doing the same thing…each and every single day. We love our students, like our own children and we feel we are constantly swimming upstream.
We need your help…
We need you to also strive to be the best people YOU ALL can be. We need you to model respect, kindness and compassion…every day…even when you have to restrain yourself, when you are frustrated beyond belief, when you are angry. When you just want to think about your own best interests that is the time when you MOST need to think about theirs...
…and put yourselves aside to do what’s right and good and decent.
So, today I ask you…no, I plead to you. Please make We The People proud of the people in whom we trust to do what’s right, to protect us, to represent us, to have our best interests at heart.
Please help us do right by the young minds…and hearts…that are looking to YOU to be the very embodiment of all the things we hold so dear when we think about humanity.
Be Kind. Be respectful. Be compassionate.
Teacher, Grade 5