This post/letter is dedicated to the Class of 2020.
Keeping with a tradition I started since my first year teaching, I would like to write and dedicate a letter to the Class of 2020.
Dear Class of 2020,
Today is the last day of school and honestly I have been sitting on writing this letter to you for a while now. I really don't know how to get started. So much has happened in the last 2 months. Your class holds a defining place in my heart, and not it's not simply because our time together was cut short by COVID-19. Those who had me as sophomores, 90+ of you, were my first group of World History students and my first guinea pigs for thematic World History teaching. Some of you were my first QuIP World History students. A few clubs I advise now started with your class.
I may not have been a great teacher, but I try my best to improve myself every year. I learn a lot of what it means to be an educator and a human being from all of you. We need to bring humanity back into education. All of you are not just a set of numbers. And you all know how I feel about letter grades.
You've heard me say many times. I became a social science teacher because I wanted to teach students why being a part of society/community matters and why democracy matters. The last few years have been rough. Political polarization is worst than ever before. There is so much disinformation out there and the media is concentrated in a handful of media conglomerates. How many of us are capable of weaving through the biases? Are you able to think yourself? Or are you easily influenced? Almost every single one of you are eligible to vote in this year's presidential election. It may just be up to your generation to bring our society back together. If you are disconnected from our society, then you may find yourself vulnerable to oppression and ignorance. I don’t care if you’re a liberal, moderate, or conservative - you are still a member of our society. Build bridges, not walls. Shape the world how you want to see it.
Not downplaying the other classes I've had, but it's not often that a teacher can get that "dream" class. And this year, I'd say my classes were those "dream" classes. Not a single one of my classes gave me any major issues and attendance has always been great. There was always that one class where I have to start late because of tardiness. I had none of those issues this year. You all absorbed whatever information I threw at you. I really wished we had the extent of the whole school year so I can get through the material I wanted to show you.
Your class was weird in the sense that I shared a lot of personal information with you. I don't usually do that with my seniors, but for some reason I was really comfortable and relaxed with all of you to be able to share that kind of information. Many teachers would caution against that, but I thought it was a good way to build relationships with students. Then there was that brief moment you tried to get me on Tinder that I nearly forgot. A number of you wrote to me wishing I find a Mrs. Chang soon. I'm good for now, but that's hilarious how many of you wrote that.
Here are some words I would like to leave to each period and other seniors:
Despite your class' phone problem, I really loved the energy of your class. Whenever we had class discussions, the amount of participation was great so many differing opinions. Compared to other years, this year I really tried to put in that effort to build stronger relationships with students. It was really nice seeing how many of you would talk to me about things outside of class. I really like noisy classes and your class had the perfect amount of noise.
Opposite of Period 3, your class did not have a phone problem. Your class was a little more on the quiet end during class discussions, but whenever I needed to get my message across I always had your attention and I could see it in your eyes. It was always a pleasure to go into your class, knowing that would happen.
Former World History (QuIP),
You all were my first group of QuIP students and you were a handful sophomore year. It was a really interesting experience though. It was my first time dealing with a group of students where most of you knew each other from QuIP 1. The community was there. Most of you got along well with each other, or just didn't tolerate others' crap so you were willing to speak your mind all the time. There were days I really wanted you to just shut up so I can get through my lesson and there were othere days I enjoyed the random tangents we'd go on. That really led to a unique class experience. Also your community circles were the most interesting...
Former World History Students,
Like the QuIP World History students, your group was my first "guinea pigs" for thematic teaching. Thanks to you all I have been able to continuously improve on my curriculum. Thank you for bearing with me all this time. Compared to the QuIP students, your class was more well-behaved haha. It's also probably because you were my 1st period and it was early in the morning. Regardless, you lot gave me a good mental break before I had to deal with the craziness after. I remember the simulations we need at the end of the year and your class was REALLY into it. A lot of great memories.
Most of you didn't even have me as a teacher. A number of you are from clubs. Some of you just wandered into my classroom or in the library and we started up a conversation. It's been great getting to know you all. In fact, at times, I end up developing a stronger relationship with some of you than some of those in my class because we have non-class-related conversations, usually about college apps or life. As with all years, I always wonder how my classes would've been different if you were in my class. And this goes for the students who were briefly in my class and were balanced out. I lost about 4 of you because of that. To this day, I'm still very upset about that. If I could, I would love to have been your teacher.
Thank you for this school year. Again, it really sucked that it was cut short. I really wished that we could've seen through the end together. Thank you for all the lessons I learned from you. Thank you for all the positive memories.
You've been a great class. I wish you all the best out there. Create your own adventures. I don’t like saying “good-byes” since that assumes we’ll never cross paths again. That’s the unbearable part of being an educator and it's even worst this year because I couldn't even bid you a formal congratulations. And this year has been hard for all of us. I think this is the first time I've actually cried over a class and the first time where I let those internal emotions become external. Thank you for the video and messages that many of you sent me. It was very touching and really helped strengthen my resolve to become a better educator than I was before. Crap. I teared a little as I wrote that...
Anyways, I prefer a "see you later." So see you later!
Keep me posted! I don't expect classroom visits since people grow out of it, so a simple email or message would be just as great. All of you should have my contact info. If not, message me on this site. Also, if you’re interested in following my Chang-ventures, whether in my travels or in the classroom, and/or Chang Thoughts overall, please do sign up for email updates!
Best of luck out there! Go out there and Chang the world!
Plant Dedication to Class of 2020
I took up gardening since shelter-in-place started.
I may never see many of you again, especially as seniors part ways. That's the one part I hate about teaching and I'll never get used to it. At the same time, I'm very happy and excited for you and see what kind of lives you'll grow in the adulting world. Educators can only do so much for our students. We can only plant the seeds and it'll depend on them to see what they'll mature into just like plants.
Below is my oregano plant that I grew from seeds. The day it started sprouting was the day I discovered the Instagram account dedicated to your class. I got pretty emotional that day. To me, it was a sign of growth and new beginnings. As a result, I'm dedicating that plant to your class. I know it sounds cheesy and all. I've been really overprotective of it. My housemate nearly knocked it over once and I got really upset. Haha...
I want to leave 10 pieces of advice (not in any particular order of importance) for you:
I'm Jayson, a high school social science teacher with a strong passion for social justice and public education issues.