Sarah, 12th - Oakland, CA
“I love teaching and I love you, but I just can’t do this anymore” has become the official marker for summer at my California public charter school, Oakland School for the Arts. This is the premise of goodbye notes and speeches from teachers who leave at the end of each school year, or, often in the middle of it. This March, after my new English teacher, Mr. T, announced that he wouldn’t be returning for the rest of the year, I felt sadness, but I felt an even deeper twinge of deja vu. Didn’t he just replace Mr. R, who said something similar? And wasn’t that the case with my last two English teachers, Ms. B and Mr. C? My thoughts quickly went towards how many teachers I’ve lost in high school.
I am a junior and eight out of eleven, or about 66%, of the academic teachers I’ve had in high school have left. To paint a more striking picture, I can count the number of my teachers who have stayed at my school on one hand. To count my teachers of color who have stayed, I don’t even need a hand: just one finger.
My amazing 10th grade English teacher Mr. Chazaro wrote about this dearth, specifically on why men of color are leaving the classroom. He notes how an ABC News report found teaching to be the fourth most stressful job in the U.S, but living and teaching in a city like Oakland means teachers must deal with a contemptuously low salary while dealing with one of the highest costs of living in the nation. As similarly highlighted by the New York Times back in 2001, low wages and poor working conditions are to blame for poor teacher retention. However, looking at the present, it is clear that we have crossed over from retention issues into attrition.
It’s not a mystery to me that teachers keep leaving. What is puzzling to me is why people aren’t more collectively concerned about this. After all, isn’t a student’s loss a society’s loss? As significant reform can be expected to emerge from a national and global crisis, we can expect huge changes coming in the United States. We cannot forget about our education system.
Besides the disruption and sadness of saying goodbye, what is lost feels less tangible: feeling known and secure, continuity in learning, and school culture are all things that disappear along with teachers. School is a place for many students to imagine the world and their place in it. Teachers are our guides in a sense, and I, for one, feel lost without them.
Leifire Danasdaugher, 10th - Arlington, VA
The silence was broken as words were spoken
Too many lives had been lost this way.
For words kept in can keep your safety
For many, many days.
The loss of speech
Had left none to preach
Except for the queen of spades.
Who lost her tongue,
Under the rug
Of the donkey who always brayed.
If words could never hurt you
Than this story would not be true.
To kings with knives only death would suffice,
And your life is a price to pay.
The lack of sound pained some
Although some ears had just gone numb.
And most would tell you it’s dumb
To look at the land and stay.
It is hard to remove the sound from a world
As you may have heard.
Yes, each one you make
None as precious as the word.
Run'or 10th- Antioch, CA
Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Koryn Gaines, Atatiana Jefferson, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Do any of those names ring a bell? Hmm… probably not. Well, they do to me. These are the names of black women & girls who have been killed by the police.
On March 13, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was fatally shot and killed by three police officers during a raid inside her own home. Yep, that’s right, she wasn’t even safe inside her own home. The fact that the three officers who barged in her home and took her life remain free is mind-boggling. I truly can’t say I’m surprised. When George Floyd was killed in May, there was an immediate outrage and outcry from America and the rest of the world. Breonna was tragically murdered in March, yet there was only an outcry from black women for justice. Nobody listened.
It wasn’t until this past summer while BLM activists protested over the killing of George Floyd that Breonna’s name was mentioned, but only as an afterthought. I’m sad to say that if black women did not fight for Breonna to be acknowledged, she would have been forgotten just like other black women. The reactions from the black community, BLM organization, and the rest of America were not the same at all.
Black lives seem to only matter when it comes to black men. Black women created BLM, the #MeToo movement, and helped to propel the Civil Rights Movement. Recently, the shooting of Jacob Blake has sparked protests around the country. Why does it take black men to be the tipping point? Black lives mattering should include all of us and not just a certain demographic. In no way am I comparing George and Breonna’s death, which were both horrendous, but instead the reactions. All us black women are asking, is that when we are hurt or torn down, you’ll stand in solidarity with us. Include Breonna in the fight for social and racial justice and the countless black women who’ve been killed by police brutality. So, I ask you: please say her name.
Ruby L., 12th- Sunnyvale, CA
My eyelids are shades of blue from the inside out
And my collarbones ache from carrying the weight of my shoulders.
My neck is criss-crossed with green lines from necklaces I didn’t take off
Just to have something to twist, someplace to preserve my thumbprint.
My head swims with night air, intoxicating and berry-black, sweet and sharp.
I could take it gulp by gulp and still be on my knees for more,
Though the bruises on my legs have faded now that I don’t know who to pray to--
Though I ask Persephone for a favor: find me a pomegranate, give me something to make me want to
Stay in my brick-and-mortar Elysium.
I’d leave if I could, but I know I’d never let myself, sunk down into grey reluctance
Hands up, reaching for a star-lit ceiling.
The water in my veins is tugging me to the ocean, vertebrae cracking, and I shudder,
Maybe to relieve the pressure in my chest, maybe to shake myself awake.
Nothing quite compares to the feeling of breathing through an open window
As rain pounds the pavement outside, mouth-watering and silver, not quite melancholy.
I chase that feeling, ignoring pebbles pressed deep into the soles of my feet.
I let my eyes close, let my hair whip and knot as I run
Putting on a show for nobody, convincing the curves of my mouth that they just want attention.
I let my throat ache, raw and red with days-old hunger for anywhere but here.
I sit on a park bench that gives me splinters but lets me rest for a minute
And I wonder
Do I never want to grow old, or
Do I just want to live in the faraway world I created
For the self I thought my youth would let me be?
Students 6th-12th Grades