Dear Unbreakable Student,

I’ve never been into poetry. I definitely don’t write it, and I don’t really read it. But this came tumbling out of my head, and I think it’s a poem. It’s the product of lots of thoughts and conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks. Or the last ten years, depending  how you count it. I wish I could show you the faces of all the students that were floating through my head while I wrote… Anyway, I want to share.


Dear Unbreakable Student,
Can I tell you what I love about you?
I love that you’re loud.
I love that I can’t get through a lesson plan, because you
have something to say about everything, and you
have a question about everything.
And every question leads to another question.
My answers are never enough for you—
Your curiosity never satisfied.

I love that your words tumble out
louder and faster
than even you can keep up with.
I love your lack of filters.
You say what you mean,
and you don’t wait for permission.

I love that you don’t walk, but run.
You’ve got places to go,
Paths to follow,
Things to do and try and experience.
Even if you don’t know exactly where you’re going,
You know you want to get there
Right now.
Can’t stop
Can’t wait
Can’t sit still.
Energy and passion
rushing and buzzing
through your body
Plowing past anything and anyone
that gets in your way.

I love that you put on a tough front,
A strong face, a fight face,
a face that can’t be messed with;
Without ever losing your soft center,
Your kind heart, your gentle heart,
your heart that cares so deeply, it hurts.

I love that you can’t be lied to.
You don’t have time for the easy, comfortable answers;
You’re here for the ugly, naked truth.
You can take it.
The only thing that will make you flinch
is insincerity.
You can see right through it.

I love that you challenge me.
I love that you make me think,
make me laugh,
make me cry
Sometimes all at once.

And I worry.

I worry that when you come to school,
We all tell you to
Sit down, and
Shut up.
Don’t be so difficult,
Get back in line, just
Sit down, and
Shut up.
Stop interrupting, and
Listen to me. Just
Sit down, and
Shut up.

I promise you
that it comes from a good place.
Because we care,
we tell you to
Sit down, and
Shut up.
We want nothing more than your success
in school
in life.
So we keep telling to you to
Sit down, and
Shut up.

And I worry.
I worry that we’re wrong.
That isn’t what I want for you.

I don’t want you to sit down.
I want you to stand up!
Rise up!
Stand out!
I want you to stand, and
Stand for something
Stand for what’s good, and true.
Stand for others
Stand for you
Stand for the things you know
Will make our world better.

I want you to stand up.
Stand up against the status quo
Stand up against oppression
Stand up against oppressors
Stand up against the darkness that clouds so many eyes,
but not yours.
Stand up to those who would have you
Sit down, and
Shut up.

I don’t want you to shut up.
I want you to speak up!
Speak out!
Shout out!
I want you to yell so loud,
they have to listen.
I want you to scream so long,
they can’t block you out.
You thoughts matter.
Your ideas matter.
Your feelings matter.
Your story matters.
And the whole world should hear—
make them hear.
Go ahead and holler in the ears
of those who would have you
Sit down, and
Shut up.

I don’t want you to sit down. Not really.
But when you do,
Sit with your eyes open
Sit with your ears open
Sit at full attention
So you don’t miss anything.
Sit to listen and read and learn.
Take everything in.
Make some of it, part of you.
But not everything.
You’ve got to figure out
What to accept,
What to reject,
What to push back,
So that you’ll know when it’s time to
Stand up.

I don’t want you to shut up. Not really.
But when you do,
Listen carefully,
so carefully,
to what others are saying
and how they say it.
How do they get people to listen?
How do they get people to care?
What are they really saying, and
Not saying?
Pay attention to other voices,
because you too have a voice.
And when you use that voice,
When you speak up,
You had better have something to say.
People won’t keep listening all day.
So when you speak up,
You had better make it count.
When you speak up,
You had better give everyone else
Something to talk about.

Dear, Unbreakable Student,
I don’t want to change you
Not now, not ever.
I’d rather stand by your side,
On your team, and
Have your back
While you claim your power.
Our world needs
You and your power.

Dear, Unbreakable Student,
Don’t ever let them break you.
Don’t ever let us break you.
But if there’s a time when you feel
like you might be broken,
Just take a breath,
A slow, healing breath,
And come back better than ever—
Refusing to stay broken.
Refusing to ever
Sit down, and
Shut up.

One thought on “Dear Unbreakable Student,”

  1. That is an amazing poem and one I really needed to see and hear in your voice in my head as I read it. It also needed some dramatic music in the background. All joking aside, what a beautiful poem of the sentiments that I feel daily for the awesome students that we are charged and challenged to educate. Thank you.

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