High School Student
Korean + American
First Generation American
Q: What do you have in common with your teachers?
A: What I have in common with my teachers is a sense of individuality. Of passion.
In fact, my favorite teachers are the ones who say sarcastically and endearingly, "Oh honey, if I was in it for the money, I would not be teaching." It goes unnoticed by students often, and our relationships with teachers often become a routine one of gives homework, does homework; teaches lesson, asks question; writes test, takes test.
But, teachers go into teaching because they were so passionate and so in love with their subject that they chose to dedicate their entire lives to sharing their source of happiness with the next generation. And that's pretty cool because I want my life to be one driven by passion, an excitement for living, and the desire to live nobly and selflessly for a cause too.
I have teachers who, like me, love to be active in their community and are constantly buzzing with activity. It feels like as the student, I am simultaneously being inspired by their invigoration with life, AND inspiring them in the same way as well! It feels nice to know that there are adults in my life who are just as active and excited about their community as I am. It feels reassuring to know that even when I'm in the workforce, like them, I'll be able to maintain my passions and actively live life.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: As with any human relationship, similarities between students and teachers do make it easier to develop personal bonds. It's like a support system. We are at school every day, and we see our teachers every day. Teachers are the easiest people to access as a resource, and when we have similarities with these adults who we can look up to, it just feels nice.
With me, I had wanted so badly to do something for the undocumented migrant workers that I had volunteered with every summer, but many adults in my life told me, "It's a very noble thought but you're just a high schooler. Leave that for college. You'll have plenty of time to find your passions then. Focus on your schoolwork, SAT, and school clubs. That's plenty enough already." I didn't feel like they understood me.
Also, I'm from a very Korean background, and I realized that most of the adults telling me to drop my hopes of helping the workers, were in fact, Korean. I don't blame them for not understanding how I felt and how personal this cause was to me. Korea is a very homogeneous country. These adults, having grown up in 70s Korea, hadn't been exposed from a young age to diversity in culture and in people, like I had here in America. They didn't understand that I felt like I could relate to migrant workers.
I am the type of person who's only talent is working hard. I'm not a math prodigy or born-poet. When I saw the migrants working so hard, I felt like I had to do something for them. For me, if I worked hard in school, I knew I would do well. They deserved that reassurance too. If you work hard, you should be able to do anything.
Then, I met Ms. Leong. She was the only adult involved in my academic life who, for the first time, had gotten me to open up about my passion to support migrant workers. She told me she saw much of her younger self in me. She gave me the type of advice that in 20 years, I would probably want to give to my 16-year-old self. She told me, "Change starts with an individual, but is executed by a team--so go surround yourself by like-minded people." She is an activist, and is incorporating her passions into her daily life.
Without having had Ms. Leong recognize me as the activist that I am and lead me and provide me resources to develop my passion, I can't imagine how different I would be.
The fact that Ms. Leong and I had something in common--a passion for equality in rights and in dignity, so strong that we could not possibly suppress it--has changed my life for the better. I think it is also important to me that she is female, is also of Asian background, and is such an activist. We have much in common, which made it easier for me to be inspired by her and open up to her. Now she is a mentor, a great role model, and an awesome grown-up friend. to me.
Rachel is currently getting ready for her senior year in high school filled with activism and college applications. She has spent her summers volunteering with migrant workers throughout her high school years.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.