This post/letter is dedicated to the Class of 2019.
Keeping with a tradition I started since my first year teaching, I would like to write and dedicate a letter to the Class of 2019.
Dear Class of 2019,
It’s been a little over a week since you graduated and I wanted to take some time to process it. Your class holds a very special place in my heart. When I first started at Santa Teresa, you were sophomores. About 50 of you had me as your world history teacher and became part of my first group of students. My reach didn’t stop there. I was also one of your class advisors and that allowed me to meet many more of you through ASB activities. A few of you ended up in my government/economics class your senior year or just ended up hanging around my class during break, tutorial, and/or some club activity. Not only are many of you among my first group of students, your class is the first one I’ve had the honor of seeing mature over the past three years. I definitely repeated this so much you’re tired of hearing of it.
This is very cliché, but I became an educator because I wanted to make a difference in our future. I want to make sure all of you receive the education and care you deserve. I love all of you, my students, and there isn’t anything I won’t do for you, as long as it’s legal. A while ago, I was having lunch with my best friend. Two hours into our lunch, he asked me, “What do you do for fun? We’ve been talking about education the entire time.” That’s funny. I dedicate so much time for education that I’m not entirely sure what I do outside of that. No regrets though. Last school year I got sick quite a lot from working myself to exhaustion. I managed it a lot better this year. I utterly love being a teacher and having you as my students. Don’t you worry. I am working on balancing that life.
I wanted to teach social science to show why being a part of a society/community matters and why democracy matters within it. This resolve strengthened even more as our society became more tumultuous the last few years. There is so much disinformation out there. How many of us are capable of weaving through the biases? Are we able to think for ourselves and see through the lies we are told by those with power and influence? People across both spectrums try to influence us every day. Our society has become so politically divisive. Who knows what is going to happen in 2020? By that time, all of you are eligible voters. It may just be up to you to bring our society back together so we can get back on the track of progress. Build bridges, not walls. It takes very little to create even the slightest amount of change - like setting aside some money to create a rainy day fund or telling someone that they matter.
As I tell all my classes, you are our future. If you don’t like the world we live in today, then it is up to you to step up and shape it in the way you desire. I’ve compared democracy to a car before. Nothing runs forever without maintenance. It needs a fine-tuning from time to time. 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. Shape it however you want. Create Chang (haha)!
I am not just an educator; I am also a lifelong learner. I’m not a good teacher, but I try my best to improve myself every year. I learned a lot about what it means to be an educator and a human being from all of you. Heck. I am picking up some hobbies through the conversations I had with a few of you, like fishing. For that, I am very grateful. We are all lifelong learners. Acknowledge that and you will go far. Growth mindset!
Here are some words I would like to leave to each period and other seniors:
Period 1, I call you my “Academic Class.” The best academic conversations came out of this class. I learned quite a few new ideas from your class - a lot of which will be incorporated into next year’s gov/econ classes. This class has the most diverse range of characters that made each class very enjoyable. Your class probably gets hit with the most random story times in my class so your class knows a bit more about my past than the others. I do apologize for not doing community circles as much with your period. The academic discourse that took place in this class was just a blast and I will miss it a lot.
Period 2, the “Late Class & ‘The Class Who Knows Too Much’ Class.” School starts at 8AM rather than 7:15AM yet your class is tardy a lot. I think out of all my senior classes this class knows the most about my personal life. Period 1 knows more about my past while your period knows a bit more with the current. There are a lot of curious individuals in this class and you ask me a lot of (non-academic) questions. Whenever I am going out of town for the weekend for a conference, workshop, or something, this class is the one who always asks, “Are you going to SoCal?” - because you know at the time..Let’s stop there. Haha
Period 4, the “Rowdy Class.” Compared to previous senior classes, this class was definitely not the rowdiest. But out of all the senior classes this year, this was the rowdiest. At the same time, there were no classroom management issues so thank you. Probably some of the most hilarious moments came out of this class because of you folks. I was able to build a slightly close relationship to this class since this bled into tutorial and the tutorial period allowed me to have more conversations with some of you folks. This class had a lot of energy and I loved it. Thank you for the good laughs.
Former World History Students
My first batch of students in my first year of teaching - year 2017/2017, periods 2 and 4. I still remember you all - where you sat, your names, etc. Many of you still kept in touch with me over the years and it’s been great seeing how you all have matured. My world history class has changed a lot since your time. A lot of the lessons I’ve learned from your classes have built into how I am an educator today. Thank you!
I’ve been with you for the last 3 years. Thank you so much for your leadership and it’s been amazing to see how you all have grown over the years. You have made my time at ST immensely pleasurable and it really allowed me the opportunity to get to know ST and the students.
Break/Tutorial/Lunch Students, most of you didn’t even have me as a teacher. Over the school year, my classroom attracted seniors I don’t have as students during break, tutorial, and lunch. Some of you come in because my own seniors, your friends, happen to be there. Others just randomly showed up and stayed. In fact, I ended up developing a stronger relationship with some of you than some of those I have in my class because we have non-class-related conversations. Every single year, I wonder a lot about how my classes would have been different if you were in my class. If I could, I would love to have been your teacher.
Okay. It’s the same scenario every single year. “Chang, we’re your favorites, right?” You usually get a “heh heh” out of me. I don’t play favorites. Each of you brought your own personal character and uniqueness into my life and it’s made my work extremely rewarding. Every morning when I head to school, I am always pumped to see you in my classroom. There hasn’t yet been a day where I woke up and thought, “Ugh...I have to go to school today and see students..” I do apologize for being gone so much throughout the year either through sickness or teacher conferences. One of the most vivid memories was when you backed me up that one time a sub tried to snub me and said, “Well your teacher knew he was getting sick days ahead huh?” And you told me that you explained to him that I was gone to a conference. Internally, I teared up.
Now let me start concluding this or else this open letter will never end.
Thank you for getting through the entire school year with me. Thank you for all the lessons I learned from you. Thank you for filling this year with countless positive memories. And thank you for tolerating all the ridiculous things I say, like replacing the word “change” with “Chang” all the time. Thank you for the most “Chang the World” support this year.
You’re a great class and I will miss all of you. Your class is going to be a hard one to forget - all those years. I wish you all the best. Go out there into the world and explore. 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 this year has been hard for me whenever you ask me if I’ll miss you guys I get internally emotional. I prefer “see you later.” So…see you later! Until then, keep Chang-ing it and have a great summer. And most importantly, Chang the world!
Keep me posted! I don't expect classroom visits, 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.
Mr. J. Chang
I want to leave 10 pieces of advice (not in any particular order of importance) for you:
Don’t worry if you haven’t had your life figured out yet. Most of us don’t. Discovering it is part of the journey.
Happiness is the journey itself, not the destination. Find happiness through living.
Acknowledge and embrace lifelong learning. You will grow more mature and wiser.
See the world. Expose yourself to other cultures. We’re not alone in this world. Pick up a foreign language if you can.
Pick up a book and read - or even a podcast - learn something new!
Life has its ups and downs. Get up from the downs, learn from them, and then continue moving forward. If you fall down and don’t get up, you will always be stepped on.
Life is short. Have fun, but know when to get serious. For those of you going to school, calculate how much each class you attend costs. This will make you think twice about ditching.
Politics is boring and complicated, but it matters. Inform yourself and be active in our democracy unless you are fine with giving into authoritarianism. You want to be governed, not ruled.
Network. Build meaningful relationships, not superficial ones.
Live within your own means. Pay yourself first. Save money for a rainy day fund. Use credit cards wisely. Always pay it off in full every month. Do NOT spend money you do not have! I totally shoved like 5 pieces of advice into one right there.
Now that you've graduated, no one will remember who Mr. Sheridan is... You were freshmen in his last year... HAH!