Dear Alex

education, photography

Dear Alex,

I know our school day is long. I too, want to go home and take a nap around 3:30 every afternoon when we see kids from nearby schools skipping past our window on their way home.

But you and I both know the intentional reasons why we don’t dismiss until 4:55. You are safer at school during that often-grueling, additional hour and a half than you are wandering around Deerpath Park or walking past the McDonalds on the corner of Keist and Illinois. And, this extra time at school, when used for its intended purpose of character building and additional academic instruction, is essential for ensuring that you and your classmates are on a path to college.

However, when you come into my classroom at 3:30 for afternoon advisory and decide it’s a good idea to NaeNae around the room with an open sunbutter snack cup in your hand, you are not making a wise use of our extended school day.

The sunbutter dance move you invented today created a gigantic mess of sticky, brown goo all over my classroom blinds. Mr. Torres had to spend additional time out of his day to clean up after you.

I’ve already spoken with your aunt. She and I agreed that your actions in afternoon advisory merit a further extension of your school day tomorrow. You will help Mr. Torres clean after school until 6 p.m. to make up for the extra work you created for him today.

I need you to be excellent from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. I expect the best from you, because to demand anything less would be to teach you that the work we are doing together is not valuable.

All my love,

Ms. Jackson

Dear Malakai

education, photography

Dear Malakai,

Your actions in class today were unacceptable for a rising 7th grader. In fact, the choices you made would even be considered appalling if the children in my mom’s 2nd grade classroom acted in a similar way.

My rules are fair and consistent. I know that you feel like I was “picking on” you. Let’s review what happened, so you can understand why you earned a seat in lunch detention.

1. Stay in your assigned seat, unless otherwise instructed: When we have partner work time, you are not allowed to get out of your seat and wander around the classroom. Randall is not your reading partner. I have paired you with Angelique to encourage you both to become better readers and to help you stay on task.

2. Follow all directions the first time they are given: It is against school rules to eat candy during class. I was not being unfair or unreasonable when I asked you to return to your seat, throw away the Easter candy and to stop distracting the class.

3. Respect yourself and others: Saying “ok byeeeeee!” and waving your hand in my face was a disrespectful and immature way to handle your emotions.

I do not tolerate rude behavior in my classroom. It doesn’t matter if the disrespectful attitude is directed at another student, male or female, or an adult of any level of authority. You don’t get to choose whom to respect. I expect that we share a mutual respect in this classroom, whether or not we agree with a teacher, whether we are friends with a student or not.

I’m disappointed with the choices you made today. You know how to behave, and you are choosing to be willfully defiant.

I will, however, continue to show you respect and fairness, even when you choose to be rude and unruly. Part of being fair is following through with consequences. You broke three class rules today, and you will sit at lunch detention as a result. If you have further questions about what you did wrong and what my expectations are, I will gladly talk to you when you have calmed down and are in a reasonable state of mind.

All my love,

Ms. Jackson

Dear Julian

education, photography

Dear Julian,

I am holding you to a high standard.

Yes, you could say I’m being picky. Writing your first and last name on every paper you turn in is required in this classroom. You are not a rock star, yet. Once upon a time, even Oprah, Bono and Rihanna had to write their full names in English class. Someday, when the world knows you as “Julian, just Julian,” you are welcome to perfect your autograph. Until then, I expect to be able to read a legible version of your first and last name at the top of every paper I receive from you.

The rumors are true. I’m cracking down on spelling and punctuation as well. By this point in the year, we should all know the difference between “their, they’re and there.” Words that are included in the reading passage must be spelled correctly in your answer. And for goodness’ sake, you must have a period, exclamation point or question mark at the end of every sentence and a capital letter at the beginning of the next one! By the way, abbreviations are not suitable for academic writing. LOL. #smh

Why does this matter?

I’m not trying to torture you with nit-picky details. I’m training you for excellence.

Think about playing soccer. Imagine that Coach Maddox shows up to practice today and instructs you all to run a warm-up lap around the field.

Let’s say that instead of running your lap, you decide to walk, and Coach doesn’t stop you. What happens next week? You’ll probably walk again and again until maybe you even stop taking a warm-up lap at all.

Before long, you’ll be sitting in the grass, staring at your cleats, while your teammates become faster and stronger with each lap they run. All you’ll become is smug and stagnant. While it probably seems like you got an easy break, the small habit of choosing not to run will negatively affect you when it matters most.

If Coach did not hold you responsible for showing up to practice and putting in your best effort every time, you would not develop the discipline and skills you need to be excellent.

Do you think Messi sits out his warm-up lap? Or is he the one leading his team in both the daily disciplines at practice and the number of goals scored on an international stage?

Excellence is in the small details. Academically and athletically, you have the potential to be great. Start by taking pride in your work. I’ll know you’re proud of what you turn into me when I see your full name, best handwriting and spelling.

As small and significant as a warm-up lap, these habits will serve you well if you invest in them.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson