Dear Unbreakable Student

I've never been into poetry. I definitely don't write it, and I don't really read it. But this came tumbling out of my head, and I think it's a poem. It's the product of lots of thoughts and conversations I've had over the last few weeks. Or the last ten years, depending how you count it. I wish I could show you the faces of all the students that were floating through my head while I wrote... Anyway, I want to share.

Dear Unbreakable Student,

Can I tell you what I love about you?

I love that you’re loud.

I love that I can’t get through a lesson plan, because you

have something to say about everything, and you

have a question about everything.

And every question leads to another question.

My answers are never enough for you—

Your curiosity never satisfied.

I love that your words tumble out

louder and faster

than even you can keep up with.

I love your lack of filters.

You say what you mean,

and you don’t wait for permission.

I love that you don’t walk, but run.

You’ve got places to go,

Paths to follow,

Things to do and try and experience.

Even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going,

You know you want to get there

Right now.

Can’t stop

Can’t wait

Can’t sit still.

Energy and passion

rushing and buzzing

through your body

Plowing past anything and anyone

that gets in your way.

I love that you put on a tough front,

A strong face, a fight face,

a face that can’t be messed with;

Without ever losing your soft center,

Your kind heart, your gentle heart,

your heart that cares so deeply, it hurts.

I love that you can’t be lied to.

You don’t have time for the easy, comfortable answers;

You’re here for the ugly, naked truth.

You can take it.

The only thing that will make you flinch

is insincerity.

You can see right through it.

I love that you challenge me.

I love that you make me think,

make me laugh,

make me cry

Sometimes all at once.

And I worry.

I worry that when you come to school,

We all tell you to

Sit down, and

Shut up.

Don’t be so difficult,

Get back in line, just

Sit down, and

Shut up.

Stop interrupting, and

Listen to me. Just

Sit down, and

Shut up.

I promise you

that it comes from a good place.

Because we care,

we tell you to

Sit down, and

Shut up.

We want nothing more than your success

in school

in life.

So we keep telling to you to

Sit down, and

Shut up.

And I worry.

I worry that we’re wrong.

That isn’t what I want for you.

I don’t want you to sit down.

I want you to stand up!

Rise up!

Stand out!

I want you to stand, and

Stand for something

Stand for what’s good, and true.

Stand for others

Stand for you

Stand for the things you know

Will make our world better.

I want you to stand up.

Stand up against the status quo

Stand up against oppression

Stand up against oppressors

Stand up against the darkness that clouds so many eyes,

but not yours.

Stand up to those who would have you

Sit down, and

Shut up.

I don’t want you to shut up.

I want you to speak up!

Speak out!

Shout out!

I want you to yell so loud,

they have to listen.

I want you to scream so long,

they can’t block you out.

You thoughts matter.

Your ideas matter.

Your feelings matter.

Your story matters.

And the whole world should hear—

make them hear.

Go ahead and holler in the ears

of those who would have you

Sit down, and

Shut up.

I don’t want you to sit down. Not really.

But when you do,

Sit with your eyes open

Sit with your ears open

Sit at full attention

So you don’t miss anything.

Sit to listen and read and learn.

Take everything in.

Make some of it, part of you.

But not everything.

You’ve got to figure out

What to accept,

What to reject,

What to push back,

So that you’ll know when it’s time to

Stand up.

I don’t want you to shut up. Not really.

But when you do,

Listen carefully,

so carefully,

to what others are saying

and how they say it.

How do they get people to listen?

How do they get people to care?

What are they really saying, and

Not saying?

Pay attention to other voices,

because you too have a voice.

And when you use that voice,

When you speak up,

You had better have something to say.

People won’t keep listening all day.

So when you speak up,

You had better make it count.

When you speak up,

You had better give everyone else

Something to talk about.

Dear, Unbreakable Student,

I don’t want to change you

Not now, not ever.

I’d rather stand by your side,

On your team, and

Have your back

While you claim your power.

Our world needs

You and your power.

Dear, Unbreakable Student,

Don’t ever let them break you.

Don’t ever let us break you.

But if there’s a time when you feel

like you might be broken,

Just take a breath,

A slow, healing breath,

And come back better than ever—

Refusing to stay broken.

Refusing to ever

Sit down, and

Shut up.