This post/letter is dedicated to the Class of 2018.
Keeping with a tradition I set last year, I wrote and dedicate this letter to the Class of 2018
Dear Class of 2018,
As you (my seniors) know, I am a second-year teacher. You are the second group of seniors I graduated. Like last year’s class, your group holds a very special place in my teaching career and my heart. I made a much strong effort to build community and have more personal conversations with each and everyone of you, which largely motivated the community circles and the personal interviews I had with each of you.
This is very cliché, but I became an educator because I wanted to make a difference in our society and community. You’ve heard me talk on multiple occasions about how completely unsatisfying my previous job was. Despite that I put many more hours and get sick at a much higher frequency now, I utterly love being a teacher and having you as my students. I’ve gotten sick at least four times this year because I worked myself to exhaustion. 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. The events going on in our country and world gave me plenty of material for the class. However, these aren’t just imaginary scenarios. It’s reality. The amount of intolerance and stubbornness from both sides of the political spectrum is astounding. They pretty much refuse to communicate with each other, calling each other “libtards,” “Trumptards,” or “snowflakes.” Our society is so politically divisive today. It may just be up to you to bring our society back together so we can get back on the track of progress. As T’Challa, the Black Panther, said, “Wise (people) build bridges, foolish (people) build barriers.” No matter what careers you choose for yourself, you are still part of a community. Remember at the beginning of the year when we did an icebreaker activity where each of you had a different job, but had to solve a common goal together? That activity is meant to show you just that idea. Many of the other activities we did aim to accomplish that as well.
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.
Like the Class of 2017, I didn’t really know your class prior to the start of the year. You were juniors when I started at Santa Teresa and I don’t teach juniors, with the exception of a few. I thought, “Are these students going to respect me? Or are they still wondering why Mr. Sheridan isn’t here anymore?” I was fortunate enough to get to know, bond, and create some really fond memories with all of you throughout the year. I wished I had started my career earlier so I could have seen all of you grow from clueless sophomores to mature(?) seniors.
This year I made a conscious effort to have at least 2 personal conversations with each of you. Hence, the self-assessments and exit interviews. I didn’t do enough of that last year except the exit interview, but by then it was too late. Honestly, there are some students from the Class of 2017 whose voices I just can’t recall. I want to genuinely say that I like every single one of you. There was not a single student I didn’t like. Here are some words I would like to leave to each period and other seniors:
Period 2, I call you my “Late Class” because we start every class at 8AM yet we can never really start class on time because of the tardiness. I don’t think we ever had a full class when school started. It’d be surprising if we were able to start on time with 2/3s of the class present. If there was anything that did annoyed me, it was that tardiness. Seriously, at times it’s ridiculous that ⅓ to ½ the class is there when the bell rang. Just don’t keep doing that in the real world or else you’d find yourself out of a job really quick. Nonetheless, we had some pretty good times. A lot of interesting ideas and conversations came out of this class.
Period 4, the “Zombie Class.” Man. You’re not a 1st or 2nd period yet your class was so quiet for most of the year. It made me pretty uncomfortable at times. I like rowdy classes. Even during community circles, at least half of you would generally pass. It was hard at times to get a conversation going. It was great seeing how the class started to open up as we entered the 2nd semester. Good times.
Break/Tutorial/Lunch Students, most of you didn’t even have me as a teacher. Over the 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. I wonder a lot of how my classes would have been different if you were in my class.
There isn’t one period that I favor more than the other. Each class is unique and each of them has given me different enjoyable and learning experiences. Every morning when I head to school, I am always pumped to see you in my classroom. I do apologize for being gone so much throughout the year either through sickness or teacher conferences. A lot of the things I learned at those conferences did end up being used in the classroom this year instead of being tabled to the next school year.
Since I started my career as an educator, there hasn’t been a day where I woke up and thought, “Ugh…I have to go to school/work today.” I put in more hours into this career than my previous job, especially this year in particular. I have absolutely no complaints.
Now let me start concluding this or else this 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. This year got worse with it. I got it printed on stickers, clothing, and business cards. Haha.
You’re a great class and I will miss all of you. 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. It is sad to think about that I will most likely never see some of you again. This is something I have to get used to as my teaching career progresses. Nonetheless, 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 if you want to! 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 just want to leave 10 pieces of advice (not in any particular order of importance) for you:
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.
Have real and genuine conversations with people. Don't be fake.
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. Nationalism is not the same as patriotism. Be a patriot, not a nationalist.
Network. Build meaningful relationships, not superficial ones.
Live within your own means. Pay yourself first.
Use credit cards wisely. Always pay it off in full every month. Do NOT spend money you do not have!