Dear Sweet, Beautiful, Brilliant Students

…a message to the students of Arkansas by Stacey James McAdoo…

“Student Studying” pencil drawing by Leron McAdoo

The following is a transcript of a video message delivered on April 8, 2020.

Hey, this is Stacey McAdoo. Your forever 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. A couple of weeks ago, I made a video message about and directed towards my fellow educators. And although I have talked to former students and children in the Little Rock School District, I’m making this one for all the dear, sweet, beautiful, brilliant students throughout the state of Arkansas who I have not had a chance to speak with. Every elementary, middle, and high school student (even those of you who have had to return home from college), I want you to know that you – the person, the whole you – have not been forgotten. I hear your frustrations, your fears, and every feeling that exists in between.

I know you are missing your friends and your teachers. I also know that those of you who probably welcomed the initial break are getting a little restless and concerned. And if your household resembles mine in any shape, form, or fashion, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of older students who are irritated, angry, and confused about their new reality, responsibilities, academic expectations, and this whole pandemic in general.

And to my beloved seniors across the state – my heart goes out to you. I hate that the dream you had for your senior year is getting deferred. I cannot begin to imagine what the loss of prom night or traditional graduation must feel like nor the what weight of trying to figure out and navigate your next steps as it relates to transcripts, internships, job searches, college plans and all those other adulting things that are being thrust upon you must feel like.

This entire year for me has been like no other. Whenever a new task or responsibility was added to my plate, and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to find the time or energy to complete it, I would remind myself that is role is temporary and that I can survive anything for a year. And on the horrible days when I simply was not okay, I would remind myself that if it’s not okay, it’s not the end because, in the end, everything is going to be okay.

For those of you who know me, you know how much I value connection, reflection, games, and interaction. So, I’m going to leave you with a challenge:

1. Engage in meaningful conversations with your parents and guardians. Play “hot seat” and ask them rapid-fire/what if/would you rather questions or simply listen to their “once upon a time,” “way back when,” and “you don’t know nothing bout…” stories.

2. Write and mail a letter to a distant relative or someone who you don’t talk to often. You’d be surprised at the joy a well written, physical letter can bring. I have an aunt who turned 87 today. And each morning, she eagerly rereads old letters that she’s received.

3. Teach your parents the songs, games, and specific content you’ve learned throughout the year. I miss my momma tremendously. She’s older, lives alone, and I haven’t been able to hug, touch, or kiss her in more than 25 days. She lives less than two miles away from me, so the other day, we went over to her house, stood in the driveway 6 feet apart, and played Heads Up and this numbers game that my AVID kids made up several years ago. She thought and acted like she was too old to play games, but deep down, I know she welcomed the escape and break from reality.

4. And finally, extend grace and mercy to your parents or guardians. Have patience with them. Smile at them. Hug them. Do things with them. Do something for them. Cook, clean, create. Sing them songs. Write them poetry. Draw them pictures. Tell them jokes. Just try to remember this is hard on them, too.

Well, dear, sweet, beautiful, brilliant students. That’s all I got. Be good. Stay safe. And know that you are missed and deeply loved.


*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is a seventeen-year Oral Communication instructor, AVID Coordinator and sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. She teaches at the historic Little Rock Central High School where she is the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.*

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