Dear Keenan

education, photography

Dear Keenan,

When you pretend to be what you are not, you become what you pretend to be. You are not a kid who doesn’t care about school. Unfortunately, when you played around on the reading diagnostic, you earned a score so low that you qualified for the Read 180 program. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great program, but you don’t need it.

In your attempt to convince your classmates that you’re cool, you took the easy route: playing dumb. Because of this, you will continue to attend Read 180 instead of staying in my classroom for morning advisory with the boys you are so eager to impress. Shaun tried his best on that reading diagnostic, and he scored above grade level. That’s not just cool, that’s admirable. He’s a leader for the right reasons. You could be too.

This program will reassess your reading level as you take weekly tests. I am challenging you to beat Shaun’s reading level by January. I dare you to be the best reader and leader the 6th grade has seen this year.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

P.S. – you should check out Walter Dean Myers. He has several books that I think you would enjoy reading. Start with Scorpions, and if you like it, try Monster next. Both books are in my classroom library.

Dear Isabella

education, photography

Dear Isabella,

You are no one’s property. Go to the restroom, and scrub those filthy words off your arm.

I’m less concerned about the Sharpie; it will come off with of lots of soap and water. What worries me is the meaning behind the words, and what this says about how you think of yourself.

Love is not ownership, and you are not a possession to be had.

Tonight for homework, I’m assigning you an extra myth to read. Not as a punishment, but certainly as a lesson. Write a five-paragraph essay answering the following question: According to the myth of Demeter and Persephone, did Hades or Demeter love Persephone more? Is it more loving to cling tightly to someone or to let her go?

You have a 98 average in my class after Tuesday’s test. You are too smart to believe that you are an 11-year-old boy’s property. If you will not hold yourself to a high standard, I will.

All my love,

Ms. Jackson

Dear Lincoln

photography, education

Dear Lincoln,

If you have something to say, say it loud and clear. Stand up and speak up for what you believe in. We are done with the cowardly comments huffed under your breath and the incessant whispers to your friends.

Let me be very straightforward. I’m not angry that you have been repeatedly murmuring the word “racist” in my classroom. I’m upset that you’re not saying it louder.

I want you to call out racism. Point a finger in its hideous face and say what you really think. We need voices that will bravely demand an explanation for actions that oppress and harm others. What we do not need is a kid who’s trying to raise a reaction in my classroom or get a high five from his best friend by whispering the word “racist” every time anyone says “black,” “brown, or “white” to describe someone’s skin color.

Don’t hide behind jokes and whispers. It’s time to grow up and become a young man who can articulate his thoughts and beliefs in a way that challenges and inspires others. Call out injustice and discrimination when you see it. And I hope you see it, because it is all around you.

Let’s call out the fact that due to years of oppression and lack of opportunity you, as a young Black man from Oak Cliff, have a much greater chance of going to prison than college. That sir, is a result of racism.

I want you to boldly talk about how angry it makes you feel that there is a racial divide in Dallas. You have every right to be mad, because you don’t have the same opportunities as a 12-year-old student growing up in North Dallas.

Discuss the fact that I am one of four White people you have met in your entire life. It’s ok to say that I’m White. It’s not racist to acknowledge the color of my skin. I’m not offended. But I am angry.

I am angry that you would rather waste your breath being the funny guy than say those same words with conviction and purpose. Honor your heritage. Live up to the greatness that you come from. Be a young man who fights injustice and oppression, not a boy who makes empty objections and distracting jokes.

If you see, hear or experience racist language or actions, call it out. All other distracting and silly side comments are not welcome in my classroom.

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson

Dear Denzel

education, photography

Dear Denzel,

Since the first day of school, your raised hand, waiving impatiently back and forth in the middle of my lesson signaled that you were about to issue a complaint:

It’s hot in here, Miss!

I don’t feel like doin’ work today.

I’m bored.

I’m hungry. When do lunch start?

Truthfully, I had become so exasperated with your lethargic attitude that I thought you were completely tuning out my teaching.

Today you changed your attitude and my mind about calling on you. By refocusing all your energy from complaining, into searching the story for figurative language, you became a simile sleuth! Throughout class, I couldn’t help but smile to see your hand waving excitedly in the air, because I knew you weren’t going to ask about lunch but that you were prepared to share the meaning behind a metaphor.

And that was only the start of your awesomeness. When I made a mistake in the notes and switched the definitions of simile and metaphor, you did not suck your teeth, call out or argue. You set an amazing example for your classmates by silently raising your hand and waiting for me to call on you.

Thank you for saving me from teaching simile and metaphor incorrectly all day. I am proud of you, Simile Sleuth/ Metaphor Man!

All my love,

-Ms. Jackson