My 14-year-old, high school freshman, Abby, asked me to write a letter to her English teacher for extra credit. I was supposed to describe Abby to help the teacher gain some insight into teaching her. Abby was pleased with the result, so I thought I’d share it. She gave me permission to do so.
To Whom It May Concern:
Abby is equal parts intellectual and accessible. She’s outgoing, even dramatic, but at the same time reserved. I predict she will spend a lifetime confusing her friends and love interests but will remain at the top of everyone’s lists for being interesting and fun.
More than any “hobby,” I would define Abby by her love of reading and books. When she was in second and third grades, we had to monitor her book intake to ensure she did other activities. When she was in sixth grade, she read to the neglect of all else. When we tried to stop her, she smuggled books with the seriousness and rage of a Mafioso moving liquor during prohibition. People throw around the word “insatiable,” but Abby’s desire for the written word was (and remains) unquenchable. I am jealous of this trait in her.
Abby loves her family, but she never quite knows how to relate to those closest to her. She is neither “tomboy” nor “princess.” She is not a jock or a dweeb. She seeks an easy stereotype even as it eludes her. More than any other young person I know, I haven’t the foggiest idea of what kind of adult Abby will become. I believe that her voracious pursuit of knowledge coupled with a profound desire to do good will ultimately lead her to something meaningful.
Unlike many other parents, I care less about how Abby will make a living than how she will form relationships with others. Abby has read enough books to understand the superficiality of our species. She can walk among us, but struggles to form lasting friendships outside family.
Abby is expressive to the edge of manic and can flaunt her dramatic self. She likes being in front of people, to act and sing. Sometimes she’s reluctant to embrace her inner Shakespearian, but she should always opt to do so when inspired. The more she feels free from the conventions and petty judgments of adolescence, the more entertaining she becomes.
Abby has expressed various interests in Anime, music and video games, but her pop culture interests are fleeting. By contrast, she has shown an innate and growing curiosity about social justice. She’s outraged over things she cannot change (yet) and can’t bear the idea of suffering. The world needs more people like Abby.
English class is a fantastic place for Abby to explore her growing capacity for critical thinking. Sadly for the instructor, you can cajole and threaten Abby until your voice fails, but Abby will only embrace the lesson when she’s damn good and ready.
Love her with a passion. Teach her at your peril.