Dear 8th grade,
I’m wondering a lot about how we are growing and who we growing into. Did you know that Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States wrote a book called Becoming, about her journey to who she is? I haven’t read it yet, but I know in it she describes her journey from Chicago to the White House. Today, I ask you, I ask myself, “Who are we becoming?”
Are we becoming men and women of character, people who can be trusted? Are we people who are real, or do we strive to be just another image on Instagram? If we are only working towards the latter or second goal then something is wrong.
I think that today our involvement in and with social media is to our detriment or harm. We never want to take off the veneers of not who we really are but whom we think we should be. So we hide behind this mask, and maybe we’ve started to believe it. Then we meet people who push back and ask us to take off the fake and begin to tell the truth. They give us permission to confess that we are not who we say or even think we are, and our systems are shocked.
I’ve noticed this thing about middle school - almost everyone lies. The things that shock me are the straight faces, no hesitation, the no backing down attitude until confronted with another version of the truth. Some of the lies are simple, “So and so, did you finish the problem on the board?” “Yes, Ms. St. Jean,” is the reply. And then I walk over to where you are sitting and you have completed not one iota of work! Truly, I am in shock!
I can't fault you for lying. I think society needs to take some of the blame. There is a pressure to be perfect pushing this generation. You're young and don't know how to deal with it. I'm older but I can't say that the burden goes away; I just think that you learn to deal with it better. This type of stress should not be normalized so I refuse to make it that way. Here's what's what: let's keep working on achieving a mindset that says, "If I can't handle something, I am going to seek help. I'm not going to lie about it. I'm going to confront the stress with truth. If I tell the truth, maybe things will get better."
Beautiful people, let's walk towards truth.
Ms. St. Jean
Dear 8th Grade,
I was wondering what to write to you all this week. In our Socioemotional Learning or SEL class, we read Zero by Kathryn Otoshi, a book about being valued and making your life count. (I told you about how I first read this book when I was at Columbia, and I guess that made it seem less like a book for the "littles" and appropriate for your age group.) We discussed Zero's statement, "I’ll never have value. I’ll never be part of the count.” We spoke of the statement as having a double-entendre. I want you all to know that even adults struggle with this idea of making sure that our lives have significance.
I think the hard thing about living during this day and age is how much access we have to what other people are doing. We feel this push to be perfect now. We feel this pull towards being immediately successful We have stopped realizing that growth is progressive, and that becoming takes time. I read this quote on Twitter this past week, "Don’t let the internet rush you. No one is posting their failures." In many instances, that is a truth we can embrace. We're humans - we really like looking like we have it all together. The truth is the moment you have it all together, or think that you do, something else throws you off balance, and now you have to learn something new.
But the cool thing about being in school is that you get to see failure, and it should be normal. School is supposed to be the place where you realize no one is perfect - least of all me. This year, I hope you learn from my failures, and hopefully there will be places to celebrate our successes. Don't be discouraged because today you're not perfect, just keep moving forward.
Ms. St. Jean
Ms. St. Jean
Native New Yorker teaching and living the middle school life, using this site to keep it 100. My students are the embodiment of joy.