Dear Education Heroes and Rockstars,
I have worked professionally in education for the past 20 years in various capacities in Miami, Florida, Washington, DC, Maryland and Philadelphia: camp director at a group home for system-involved youth, AmeriCorps VISTA member supporting schools in establishing trusted relationships, guidance counselor aide, intern at a national advocacy organization focused on equitable education opportunities, deputy education officer for the City of Philadelphia, vice president of teaching, learning and innovation at a Philadelphia education nonprofit, education consultant with the School District of Philadelphia, and the (current) board chair of YESPhilly.
And now, the one that gives me the most joy: a teacher.
I am also the mother of a 5-year-old who got Covid in December, and an 11-month-old who had health complications since being born premature. And I have spent the year, with my family, mourning the loss of my mother-in-law, one of the million-plus Americans to die from Covid. I share that, because I know so many of you understand how personal trauma has hit especially hard this school year.
School communities around the nation are trying to function as we did pre-Covid. This is an impossible task, yet you, the education heroes and rockstars, are doing it each day.
This has been one of the most difficult years in my professional career.
I am not alone in this. It has been hard to find the joy, as we are all experiencing collective trauma from educating during a global pandemic. This year was “business as usual” across the nation when the priority should have been mental health and healing. America’s education system is not ok; this year has been anything but normal.
That’s why I wanted to write this love letter to all who are continuing to inspire America’s future in a system built on oppression and guilt.
School communities around the nation are trying to function as we did pre-Covid. This is an impossible task, yet you, the education heroes and rockstars, are doing it each day because you care for the students and will do anything to help them succeed.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to education and each student needs their own individualized plan of success. As a mother to two young loves, I have seen that children are born scientists as they ask questions and exhibit inquiry.
They want to understand the world around them and their curiosity is sparked just by being present. This beautiful curiosity seems to disappear when students enter the education system. My hypothesis on why this happens is because many decision-makers start looking at students as data-points versus humans.
As an educator, my approach is grounded in equity, empathy, love and kindness. I also want my students to be able to function as citizens in this world, and so I hold them accountable and value their voice in their education. I believe that every student is a scientist and mathematician; my role as an educator is to help them see this for themselves.
To the education heroes and rock stars out there, I am with you when:
No one understands our daily struggles.
No one hears our cries for help.
Society sees only our smiles and passion to help our students.
We are asked to do more with less. (How is that a recipe for success?)
No one sees the mental energy that is drained from us each day.
No one sees that we are too tired to be there for our own children at the end of the day.
Even our loved ones don’t understand, because they don’t live it.
We are called lazy because we demand safer learning environments.
We are seen as absurd when we want to hold students accountable and to higher standards.
We are not “team players” if we think standardized tests are built on a system of oppression and should not hold value.
To all of the teachers, principals, support staff, counselors, and others who work to educate Philadelphia’s children:
I SEE you.
I HEAR you.
I VALUE you.
RESIST until we get the RESPECT that we DESERVE.
Love and Light,
Ami Patel Hopkins/Mrs. PH
Ami Patel Hopkins is a 7th grade math and science teacher at Cook-Wissahickon School and the board chair of YESPhilly Accelerated High School. The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who stipulate to the best of their ability that it is fact-based and non-defamatory.
RELATED STORIES FROM THE CITIZEN ON EDUCATION