10 Things I Told My Students

This year’s been a surprising experience for me, mainly because my career took me somewhere I didn’t see myself getting into. A short backstory: I graduated from college not knowing where I wanted to go. Like most college students my next priority was to find a job, but everything felt unclear to me. And so, after a sort of gap year where I spent much of my time painting, studying, drawing, and everything else you can think of, I found myself somewhere I didn’t expect: I became a teacher to 400+ senior year students, and I loved every second of it.

Being a first time teacher has been an amazing experience. I often describe it as becoming a student again, but this time you enter a different door. And I’m so thankful for my co-teachers for teaching me the works. I’ll talk about it some more soon in a different entry, for now, let me share this with you.

These are 10 Things I Told My Students:


  1. “Everyone has their own language. It is up to us to explore the uniqueness of it, and to learn it so that we may be able to communicate and appreciate each other properly.”

When: Gathering Information lesson

I learned through a lot of hit and miss that there are people out there who speak differently from me, meaning that sometimes what works for us won’t work for them. We all come from different backgrounds, different influences, different families, cities, culture, we can even consider different family roles, different friends, and all of these things all embossed in this person’s life that we may never truly grasp. We must try our best to use the opportunity, that little glimpse they offer for us, to be able to communicate with them in the most effective way possible if we want to build relationships and even improve ourselves.

This also means, we must understand our own personal language, our own personal culture and upbringing.

  1. “You’re going to change. You’ll like new things, be new things, and want new things. Find someone you can love who can love you over and over again. But don’t expect and demand this from people. Let the right people stay with you.”

When: A student was asking for advice, she was going through some heartache

  1. “The world demands us to fight for something, because it is needed. I just hope one day, we will fight for something that encourages more love than hate.”

When: Political Involvement and Media lesson

I found this crucial to say during this particular lesson. It goes without saying; I have hope that one day we can accomplish this.

Side note: I’m very proud of my students and how involved they are socially and politically. They are involved in a way not just because they have to, it’s because they strongly believe that they can create a powerful influence to both the younger and the older generation. They do not just go out there with an interest to fight, but I’ve observed that they make themselves well informed before speaking; a quality I truly admire about them.

  1. “Remember this: when you ask for strength, Life won’t give it to you. Instead, Life will give you the opportunity to prove to yourself that you are stronger than you think.”

When: A student was going through something

  1. “When you love something? Keep doing it. Writing, drawing, dancing, reading, etc. It doesn’t matter what happens to it, what’s important is that you do it and commit to it. Because the more you do what you love, the better you get at it. And one day, this thing will love you in return and reward you for sticking around.”

When: A career talk I gave to 7th Graders and also during a College Seminar talk for Juniors


  1. “There will be people who will go against your decisions, and what you believe in. But the fact that you will stand for something is more than enough.”

When: Visual Information and Media lecture
(inside joke for my students: #FightFabio)

This was a fun activity, also a very challenging one when I presented it in class. Now, let me explain what happened here:

During this lesson, I wanted to tackle sexism and feminism through visual information. But there’s a catch, and this one is named Fabio.

I explained to my students that Fabio, every time we had to say it in class, is technically not a person. It is a characteristic, a point of view, an opinion, etc. Fabio can be a man, a woman, a total stranger, a friend, a family member, a child, a teacher, someone in authority, a politician, and many more. Now, Fabio will find a way to alter your message around as you present your ideas, Fabio will disagree to your point of view, and Fabio is stubborn because Fabio was brought up and influenced that way.

I can talk more about the activity and everything that happened then, but the fact is I had to make it clear to them that these things will keep happening so I wanted them to learn how to properly address it. I told them the Fabios in this world aren’t going to stop just yet; they’re going to fight for their beliefs as much as they (the students) will; so if they will face a Fabio someday, they’ll be ready. (And honestly? As we were going through that activity, I can pretty much say they’re going to be fine out there).

  1. “When you claim to love someone, make sure you understand that when they love you back, it is now your responsibility to take hold of that love. And what you do with it can change that person more than you know.”

When: A student was asking for advice because she had some decision making to do

  1. “There’s so much beauty in this world –the different cultures, beliefs, food, and stories– they all come together to form a brand new perspective for each one of us to dive into. We must appreciate the diversity, but realize as well how we are all part of the same life.”

When: Short activity on Predictions
We started talking about how someday; racism will no longer exist because of what we do now.

  1. “It’s going to get messier, and finding reasons to give up will always be inevitable. But remember the last time you felt like the world was ending, and realize that you made it through over and over again.”

When: Last day of school

  1. “The universe has its way of writing your life. It may not make sense now, but someday it will.”

When: Release of their college entrance exam results
(and whenever they need to be reminded)

This was a heavy time for my students, and I guess for me as well, when we were so eager to know but very much anxious to find out the results of our college entrance exams. It’s probably clear to everyone that this sudden transition of graduating from high school feels like whatever happens now will define how good or bad our lives are going to be, but after some time and some thinking we start to realize this barely has anything to do with it.

Sure, it can affect us in many different ways and lead us to many different paths, but it’s always going to make sense somehow why these things happen. Be it what college you end up in, who you end up with, what job you get into, the things you weren’t able to do or the things you wish you haven’t done, the people you meet, and all of that, the universe will surprise you with a reason.

Now, as they graduate, I get to watch them live out their lives and define the world for themselves and for others. I get to watch them grow, maybe from a distance, but these memories will always be with me; through a glance of an empty seat, or as I take a walk down the halls, I’ll remember them. I am truly grateful to have had them as my first batch of students, and to have been part of their lives, even just this once.

TIP JAR: Send Some Love!

As simple as a tip of $1 you, my dear reader, would be supporting me, Paper Pirate, in making more art, writing more content, and creating more learning materials for everyone! This would mean so much to me, and I will be forever grateful for your kindness and generosity.


Paper Pirate

Paper Pirate (Mary Cruz) is a teacher by day, artist by night, and an entrepreneur in between. Inspiring others to keep making art and taking on adventures. The paperpirateship.com is the official site and blog of Paper Pirate, showcasing the art and illustration of Mary Cruz.

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