Monday, 7 September 2015

An Open Letter to Students Everywhere.

Dear students everywhere,

Do you still remember the first day you went to kindergarten? How scary it was, but exciting to know you'd be going to school with kids the same age as you from all different walks of life? How nervous you felt because your mom was just going to.. LEAVE YOU THERE? Yet, after all the crying, and all the "but I thought you loved me!" speeches, you still managed to have a good day playing with the purple boats in the water, the little boards that had these delicious looking chunks called "chalk" which you later found out tasted horrible, and the blocks that had these useless letters on them. Oh, and the other kids were okay too. You really just wish this one kid named Johnny didn't have to sneeze all over your crackers at snack time.

Episode: Powerpuff Girls "Paste Makes Waste"
Do you still remember the first day of the 4th grade? How crazy it was for your mother that you were 9 years old, although it seemed to be such an odd age to you? How incredible it was to know that one other kid in your class actually knew what Sailor Moon was? How cool you'd feel since you had walked in there with your perfectly sorted "First Day of School" outfit? How fun it was to know that all of your activities for the day seemed so easy, you knew you'd ace everything in this class. How nerve wracking it was to hear your name be called to... READ OUT LOUD?! How excited you were just to be able to finally use those Crayola pencil crayons on your title pages, because everyone knew those pencil crayons were the "bees knees", and that Laurentian was like the second rate brand, and that anything else was just "no bueno"? How amazing it was to go home to an after school snack and cartoons?

Episode: Arthur "Desk Wars"
Do you still remember your first day of high school? Of college? Of university? Of grad school? Of med school? Of law school?

Do you remember... the thrill of it all? I really hope you do.

Today is "Labour Day" in North America, and while it has become a day off for all of us, it has also become the day that commemorates the "Last Day of Summer" for all Canadians.

For some people, today is an exciting day as it marks a new chapter in their academic lives, whether they may be continuing their studies at an educational institution they're enrolled at now, or if they're moving on to a different school in the elementary, secondary, post-secondary, graduate, and post-graduate careers. Or, it could be a sad day because summer is over, parties are over, lazy days are over, and school begins again.

I think it's important to highlight that, although I know education can get overwhelming, as it has been for me in the past, I think it's very important to appreciate it for every fibre of its existence. Here are a few reasons why:

1) School is a privilege. I know you've probably heard the generic "not everyone can go to school" response, but just remember that this issue is a very real problem in our world today. So many children worldwide are not able to go to school because of financial reasons, health issues, for the sustainability of families, lack of human rights, and even lack of acknowledgement of identity for many people who suffer LGBTQIA discrimination. For me to be able to go to university and be supported financially by the government along the way, gives me a huge advantage over so many people, and I acknowledge that as a blessing. Not to mention that we as Canadians get to go to elementary and secondary school free of charge with the ability to choose between Catholic or public schools, nowadays even receiving no discrimination on spiritual beliefs.

Photograph by: Altaf Qadri/AP // Source: 

2) School is a network for passion driven people. As much as I hear the "what's the point of standardized testing if it doesn't even properly measure our full knowledge of the course material?" question repeated over and over on social media, I think it's important to draw your attention to 2 different aspects of this question that are often missed. A- If not for standardized testing, we would not be able to fairly nor properly evaluate larger groups of individuals regarding the same amount of information taught by 1 or more teachers/professors. B- School is NOT ALL ABOUT STANDARDIZED TESTING. Classes can range from very interesting, to plain monotoned, however we as individuals must find ways in order for us to be inspired by the material we are taught. We are able to decide from a young age whether we like science, or math, or language arts, or art, or music, or social studies etc., and yet we forget what we're most interested in just because tests are hard. We need to remember that our passions and our interests drive us. If people are deciding to be negative about test results, that is their choice, but if we really remember that the reason why we're at school is because we're passionate about a beautiful future and we intrinsically love what we're being taught, even if we don't love HOW WE'RE BEING TAUGHT, we can make the situation favourable for us. We can teach ourselves better and ask more questions to understand material.

3) School is not just about the tests. Highlighted in the point above, I think it's very important for us to remember that school is not just about the exams, it's also very much about discovering one's identity. It helps us see what kind of worker we are, it helps us see if we are confident about ourselves, it helps us figure out our social abilities, and most of all it helps us overcome our fears of being exposed to the public because in school, we're exposed to our peers all the time. I also hear the quote your grades do not define you." very often, and as much as I agree, it is also essential to remember that we do not know better than our teachers. Even if our teachers are human too, even if they can be wrong, even if they can be mean sometimes, they usually give us marks based on our academic abilities with regards to the assignments given. The grade point does not define who we are, but it helps us to realize how much we do or don't know about the material given to us.

Therefore, I hope that through this letter/blog post that I was able to reach out to all of the students out there. Let the thrill of the first day and the thirst of knowledge thrive in you. Don't let negativity bring you down, and make sure to always keep your head up because nobody can and nobody should ever tell you that you are incompetent, and that your grades define you.

You are who defines you. So show the world what you're capable of.

Sincerely yours,
A student.