An Open Letter to Teachers: A Thought Before Our First Day Back

As every new year begins, we get excited and anxious wondering what students will be on our rosters.  Will I have a good group of parents? Who will the new teacher next to me be?  Do I have all the supplies I need?

As I get ready to embark on year 24 in education, I saw this photo and it saddens me and then made me happy!

It’s sad to see the poverty that many people around the world endure, but it makes my heart smile to see the mother getting her child ready for school and attempting to give her an education and potentially a way out of poverty!  She is surviving the best she can with what resources and education she has!!

education in india


I have been in an urban district, which resembles a mini microcosm of Chicago Public Schools.  Are the families in my school district living in drain pipes like this picture shows?  Thank God, NO!  Never the less, many face struggles that you and I can only imagine!  As teachers, we were able to be educated, afforded opportunities and have positioned ourselves to be where we are by choices we have made and work.  Not everyone in the United States, let alone 3rd world countries, have the same opportunities that we have had.

There are single parents that have to work different shifts just to keep food on the table!  The disconnect notice for the utility bill arrives and the decision to buy food or pay the bill is the choice of the day!  They have “pay as you go” phones and when the minutes run out, they PRAY that the kids at home alone will be ok for just a few hours until their shift ends.  They don’t have enough money to go to the laundry to get all the school clothes washed so the children wear the same chocolate milk stained shirt out the door to school again.  The rent is due, and they didn’t get enough hours in at work to cover the full month’s rent.  That sinking feeling in their stomach begins as their mind reels at life’s demands that they can’t ever seem to meet.

The student walks into school embarrassed at being late again, and we ask them why they are late!  They say the car wouldn’t start.  If we knew a little about their lives, we would know that is a lie.  The family can’t afford a car.  Mom got home from work really late, slept only a few hours and woke up late to get them out the door.  That was a good morning!  Sometimes mom is not home to get them up and send them to school with a piece of toast, if there is any bread in the house.

We, as teachers, many times look at the parent and want to judge and say that they are a “bad parent”.  They must not love their kids.  Well, if we knew a little about their lives, we would know that’s a lie!  They love their babies as much as you or I could ever love ours!!  Surviving life can just get in their way sometimes and preoccupy them with how to pay the rent, feed the kids, pay the utilities, get to work!  They don’t LOVE their children or want ANY less for their children than we want for ours!  If we knew a little about their lives, we would know that is the TRUTH!

Dear teachers, please remember that the parents of our students DO LOVE them regardless of their economic status. They face far more obstacles than we may ever understand.   Until we have walked 10 miles in their shoes, we can’t understand!  Please go back to school with an open heart, open mind, and always a smile to greet them at the door.  You may be the only smiling face they see in a day!

Let’s hold them accountable but with an understanding, compassionate heart.  If we know a little about their lives, we CAN make an enormous impact and change a life!

May you have the BEST year ever!

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