By now I hope you have learned that I teach in Philadelphia. But for those of you late to the game; I teach in Philadelphia. And teaching in this longstanding and historical urban setting has awarded me many privileges and experiences that can be found no where else. I can run the art museum steps whenever I need a boost of self confidence, I can visit the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence whenever I need a reminder of my American heritage and values, and I can visit Wawa whenever I want a hoagie, hotdog, soft pretzel or chocolate milk at any hour of the day.
But among my most valued privileges here in the city of brotherly love is the opportunity to receive my higher education from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. It has provided me with inspiration, insight and intellectual stimulation. While simultaneously bestowing un to me the gift of supplemental anxiety, stress and stifling debt. As illustrated by that last sentence my relationship with said institution of education has been rather bi-polar. And tonight, on the eve of the due-date of two final papers and projects, on the week after spring break and a day past an anxiety-ridden district led evaluation of the educational atmosphere of my school, I am so consumed with my emotions in this matter that I am compelled to release them in the form of personal letter, one addressed to each of the competing sentiments of which I hold.
They read as follows:
Dear Grad School:
Hey. I think you’re pretty cool. I don’t know if you’ve noticed me but I’m the little public school boy from out of state that sits in the back corner and pretends not to be intimidated by your elite level of academic reverence. I know you might not really know (or care) about me, but I think you’re pretty swell. I’ve seen the way your name is mentioned among the upper echelons of scholastic achievement, you’re number and quality of publications highly regarded, your status historical and proud.
You’re also real pretty. I have never seen a campus with such classic beauty. The red brick really suits your green lawns and accentuates the color of the leaves on your trees in the autumn. The first time I stepped foot within your bounds it made me feel special. I’ve never felt that way about a school before.
I hope you don’t think this is weird, but sometime, when I’m feeling down, I like to think about you. Just to give me a little inspiration. The thought that one day, I could have a credential with both our names on it, well, I get pretty excited about that.
I know you’re real busy, and you probably have a ton of other students asking you this all the time, but I’m almost done with my first year and I figured, you know, maybe I’ll just take a shot and see what happens. Anyway, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, no pressure, but I sure would be happy if you said yes! Either way I just want you to know that I think you’re awesome.
Will you share a diploma with me? (circle one) YES NO MAYBE
Dear Grad School:
Thanks for the added work, like being a first year teacher wasn’t hard enough. I really appreciate the additional time and energy I spend on reading (or pretending to read) things that won’t really help me keep “Cisco” from piercing his ear in the corner of Social Studies using a lapel pin and hand sanitizer. The really long classes on the weekends and talking about things I didn’t read with people who either have a lot more time or are way more smart than me is cool to.
Thanks for pushing me to think deeper about topics that make me more discouraged about myself as an educator and social empowerer and my job. Winter in an urban Philly school was such an uplifting and rejuvenating experience that I needed some more complicated viewpoints and disheartening social theories just to keep me grounded and to put my light-hearted life back in perspective.
Thanks for taking away one weekend a month. It was a close one. For a minute there I thought as a first year teacher I was going to have too much free time on my hands. You really bailed me out of that one.
Thanks for adding just enough work that it was doable, but in conjunction with all my other expectations and responsibilities, it became overwhelming.
Thanks for the price. I owe you one. Or like 40,000.
Thanks for the nights I didn’t sleep because I was pretending to do your assignments. When instead I was really just observing my brain as it fizzled… or I was writing this post.
But most of all, thanks for constantly inspiring me to question my intellectual ability. I have been know to be one confident (some would contend cocky) badasmofu, but you seem to have this supernatural ability to drain that all out of me. I have never questioned my worthiness more than while sitting in some of your classes listening to my peers display their superior commitment to education. You have shaken my ego down to it’s core, making me a more vulnerable, meek and insecure person.
And for that, I thank you.