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To My Students...

Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning
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I became an educator because I wanted to impact the lives of students in the same ways that my teachers did for me. See, I owe so much to the educators who invested their time, care, and love in me. They saw something in me and never gave up, no matter how many reasons I gave them to do so (believe me, they had PLENTY of reasons).

What I never expected was the impact that my students would have on me as a person. Not one day has passed where I have not been in awe of at least one of my students. I have seen high levels of excellence in academics, athletics, arts, and other areas. I have witnessed students overcoming the highest odds stacked against them to overcome and be successful. I have worked with so many kids who deal with things that would make the average person crumble into pieces.

To say that my students inspire me on a daily basis is an understatement. They reinforce my why for being an educator every single day. They challenge me to be the absolute best that I can. They are the reason I decided to move into the realm of politics. They have unknowingly become my motivation and are the inspiration behind the Our Future First movement.

Over the years, we have been through a lot. I remember an 8th grade class being very upset about remarks that their building principal made during an awards assembly. When they came back to our room, they suggested writing a letter and having the entire 8th grade sign it. They dictated the letter to me as I typed it for them. They distributed it to their peers and explained the cause. They presented it to the their principal. This was all them, with some positive encouragement from me to do what they thought was right and just.

There are so many instances where students stood up for what is right and voiced their thoughts and opinions. The one that changed my life trajectory occurred during this school year and took place right after the election of Donald Trump. We were celebrating Veteran’s Day in 8th grade and each teacher picked a theme to instruct. I had the lesson entirely planned out until I saw the looks on the students faces the day after the presidential election.

Their faces were wrought with fear, concern, anger, disbelief, shock, and many other emotions that I know a lot of adults were also dealing with. How could I ignore their feelings, teach a lesson that had nothing to do with their issues, and expect them to care? It was one of those times where the planned lesson went in the trash so that we could have one of my “real talks”. Little did I know at the time that these conversations would lead me to pursue a major political office.

When my students entered the classroom, I gave one simple instruction: Write however you were feeling about the election on the board. I did NOT censor their language or thoughts. I walked out of the room so that they knew I would not see which student wrote what. When I returned to the room, I read everything on the board out loud to the group (even if there was profanity). I needed to speak their thoughts so that they could see them come to life and know that their words have power.

The conversations that followed were raw, real, and incredibly powerful. The power was with the students in the room that day and the open sharing provided glimpses into their souls and fears. I never imagined that my students would share as much or as in-depth as they did. I also did not think that their thoughts and feelings would motivate me to do more in this world, but here I am.

Most educators start off in the classroom and then move on to positions that move them out. When I left the class to become a principal, I rationalized it by thinking that I would be able to impact an entire school on a larger scale than just teaching a few classes. At the end of the day, educators want to impact as many students as they can and change as many lives as possible. That is why we do what we do.

That is why I am planning on leaving schools entirely within the next year or so to run for an office in the federal legislative branch. There is so much work required in education and it is clear that the Department of Education and federal government need as much help as possible. We need educators to make major decisions about education. When I win my election, I will work to make an impact on a scale I never thought I would.

To my students, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives.Thank you for listening. Thank you for encouraging. Thank you for being the change that our world so desperately needs. Thank you for believing in me to bring positive change to our world. Thank you for inspiring me and the Our Future First movement. Thank you for seeing the potential in me, even if I did not always see it in myself. Thank you for pushing me to pursue this. Thank you for your nonstop love and inspiration.

I am not the person I am today without every one of you. I am doing this for you. I am strengthened by knowing that you will be with me on this journey. We will be the change that we wish to see. We are going to put Our Future First and ensure that this world works for all of us.


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Sean is currently an 8th grade science teacher and science department head at Camden Promise Middle School, which is a part of the Camden Charter School Network. The goal of the network is to give all children in Camden an equal opportunity to achieve their greatest potential, to raise awareness through educational policy, to expand resources, to build leadership, and support program capacity for the city of Camden. Prior to this, Sean spent 2 years serving as the principal of a private, out-of-district school for students with behavioral and emotional issues. Sean began his educational career by teaching middle school science for 6 years throughout New Jersey (in Hoboken, Camden, and Millville). 

Sean completed his undergraduate work at Rutgers University, where he majored in Communication, with a minor focus in Organizational Leadership. He attended graduate school at the University of Scranton, where he earned his MS in Educational Administration. 

In addition to being an educator, Sean has received a patent for a student-centered teacher feedback system. This approach takes the focus solely off of student output and examines student input. The process allows students to provide instant feedback on any one of several key aspects of a lesson. He is currently developing a plan to get this system in the hands of students as soon as possible. If you would like to collaborate with him on this, please reach out! 

When he is not focused on his professional endeavors, Sean loves to spend time with his wife, their two sons, and their two dogs. He enjoys running, mountain biking, training for and running Spartan Races, riding his motorcycle, and doing whatever he can to stay active and involved.

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Guest Sunday, 23 July 2017