youth development & education

A Letter to my Students

To my dear students,

I’m not coming back to teach health next year. In fact, you won’t have health class next year the way you have it this year. Your city government decided they can’t give the schools the money needed to keep everything like it is now. Faced with the need to make cuts, the school committee decided not to have health teachers in the schools anymore. Instead, physical education teachers will teach about health in gym class. I’m not quite sure what that will be like or what they will teach.

I really wish that you could still have health class next year. I’m worried that you won’t get the health education you deserve; I’m scared that without this education you won’t have the knowledge, skills and attitude that you need to take care of yourself. I’m angry at the school committee for taking away health class because I believe in the value of learning about and talking about our health. I’m frustrated that not many members of our community are fighting for your right to in-depth health education. I’m also very sad that I won’t personally get to teach you next year — I’ll miss you!

How can I inspire you to continue educating yourselves about health? Who will you go to with your questions? How will you figure out the difference between the myths and truths you come across? What will you do when puberty becomes overwhelming, confusing and frightening? What will you think and feel as you come face to face with desire, pressure and risk?

I want you to understand that health isn’t something that you have, it’s something that you do. Living a healthful life is a constant process that you are just beginning. You will continue that process in physical education next year, and you must also continue on your own, both during and after middle school. I hope that you keep practicing all the amazing healthy behaviors you have impressed me with this year. Remember my goals for you: (1) love and respect your body; (2) express your emotions; and (3) build relationships based on open and honest communication.

If you start to feel that all this is too much or too hard, you’re not alone. The process of living a healthful life does not start and end with you in isolation — in order for us all to be truly healthy, we need to make some changes in our society. Your awareness and acceptance of your own needs, your hunger for accurate information, and your courage to ask questions will help you figure out what changes you need. Then, make yourselves heard. Make demands. In order for us all to be the healthiest and happiest people we can possibly be, we need a lot of change. We need you to make that change.

Love always,
Ms. Arbeit

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator