“So you want to be a teacher,” he said, “you know that’s not an easy job, right? You have to deal with kids like me.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We’re different, you don’t know what it’s like where I’m from. There’s gangs, I’m a lot older than them because I dropped out of school, but now I got placed here. I’ve never liked school though and I’ve never been good at it. It’s hard.”
“Well, kids like you are why I want to be a teacher,” I said. “Because I think you’re a good kid. I do.”
Joshua, this is an open letter to you. The odds of you and I ever seeing each other again are very slim, but I wished our conversation could have gone so much further. Because “kids like you,” are the most special kind of people. There was a certain look in your eyes and that is why I approached you. Because yes, you may have gotten kicked out of your previous school and you may be in an extremely difficult situation, but I wish I could’ve told you to take a step back and see that you have been given a second chance. You were given a second chance the day your name was randomly drawn out of a hat to be accepted into this charter school, and I was given a second chance when I had this conversation with you today.
I wish I could have told you that you re-opened my eyes to a dream of mine that had been lost for a while now. I hope you know that I had my mind made up on giving up my dream of becoming a teacher. I hope you know, that at the end of this week, I was going to talk to my advisor and drop education as my minor because there is a test that I cannot pass and I didn’t think it was worth it anymore. I was giving up just as you had.
But I’m not anymore. Joshua, though you will never see this, this letter and this thank you is all for you and for all the “kids like you.” I hope you inspire a teacher as much as you inspired me today, I hope that someone in your life comes along and is able to show you just how important you are and how much potential you have. I also wish I could find the person who put the thought in your head that there are “kids like you” and tell them just how terribly wrong they were for generalizing you in the first place. There is no kid like you, not in the way you see it. You just have yet to see the potential you have and the qualities that make you who you are. You and I both know that though you think that a “kid like you” is in fact who you are, there is a small fire burning deep inside you that just needs to be ignited a bit more. Because Joshua, what you have not been able to see is that you are doing what so many kids today have not done. You are showing up. You are there, and that little act alone says enough. From then on, it is up to “people like me,” the teachers, to give you the push that you gave me today. You are different, you are important, and the flickering light I saw in your eyes is capable of bursting out of the tiny flame into an enormous sun that ignites the hearts of all the other people in this world who think they are “kids like you.” You are enough. This is an open promise from me to you – that no matter how many times I have to take this test, how many more summer classes I may have to take, or sleepless nights and world-ending moments that are ahead of me, today I made a promise to myself and to you – because people like me need kids like you, and kids like you need people like me.