A letter to my students

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all (wo)men — that is genius.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Student, person, agent of change,

Let me take this moment to, first and foremost, assert that you have a voice worth hearing and wisdom worth heeding. Your voice is valid and what you think has, with certainty, been felt by others. Your job is to express it and express it well, so that others may know that their voices are valid and worthy. I want to thank you for sharing that voice with me and the world.

People gain strength through knowing that others share in all of their miserable, joyous, and, often, confusing experiences. Through writing and sharing your worlds, you give others comfort and a route to find their own voices. Over the course of this year many of you shared your lives with me through your writing, sharing, and expressing. Each of you, indirectly, informed my understanding of my job as an educator.

Every teacher has, or at least should have, a philosophy of Education. It’s a comprehensive document that attempts to capture the engine behind our actions. While the contents of mine have changed, one assertion remains constant throughout: the importance of helping every student find and believe in their voice.

When I started teaching, I believed it was my job to teach you to engage with the world as I had and to appreciate what life has to offer. Quickly, I realized that my world was very different than yours and that you may not care about that which I appreciate most. So I was lost. How could I teach you to appreciate the world if I didn’t understand yours? Then I learned how to listen.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t tell you what’s right or wrong with your world, I can only give you the brush to paint your self-portrait, the vehicle to express yourself.

I am merely an observer and you showed me that place.

You are a resilient young person. You have likely faced more trauma, heartbreak, and struggle than most people will face in a lifetime. Don’t use this as a crutch or an excuse. Rather, know that you had the strength and grace to get up and keep moving forward. If you’ve made it this far in your life, there is little that can stop you from here.

As you move out into the world, you must know three things:

First, you have something to say and it is worth hearing.

Second, trust in your community. This may be your friends, family, or perhaps the people you’d least expect. Regardless of who it is, find a community, root yourself in it, and trust in them.

Third, live intentionally. You don’t always have to lead, but never allow yourself to be led blindly without first deciding it is what you want. Lastly, “don’t worry, be happy.”

I wish all of you the absolute best in all that you do. I hope that every dream comes true because you deserve it.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to watch each of you find your own voices.


Mr. Ellis

June 2015

Read all of the student’s work by clicking on each assignment button below: