–which is why transitioning to a new age on my birthday was so rough.
And now I have to send off my first set of seniors, many of whom I taught as juniors last year; we’ve built up relationships and now they are graduating and heading out into the real world.
It’s times like these that I kick myself for being so shy and introverted. Every day, getting up in front of that classroom and public speaking, is difficult enough. But then to bare my soul, too? To let them know how much I care for them and pray for their future successes (aside from what society defines as successful)? It’s so hard! As time passes, I think I will get better at it–at breaking down those barriers and letting the students understand the depth of my love for them (and that, therefore, our reading assignments and essays are NOT PUNISHMENT)–but not yet.
So for now, the speech I should give them as we end classes this week will stay here, in internet-blog-land. And a handful will find it (like I found their Twitters, HA!), and appreciate it. That will have to be enough for now, while I still seek my courage.
Without further ado:
My dear students. You have made it through high school, you have conquered some of the worst periods of life, and you now have an education that nobody can ever take away from you. Your cars can be repossessed and your clothes can shrink (when you don’t wash them correctly next year at college despite all of my warnings to make your mom show you how to do laundry now, before it’s too late) but nobody can steal the knowledge you’ve filled your head with. I think it’s cute how much you all complain about your workloads, because college and adult working life is all going to be so much worse — however, you really have achieved a milestone. Don’t let others downplay it. You have done something worth celebrating even though there is still more work to come. “Stop and smell the roses,” as they say, or stop and look back at the 12 years of school you’ve made it through. Yes, education has some pitfalls and issues, and I am honored that we have had deep discussions about some of those things in class; maybe one of you will be able to make a difference in education in the future, as I am trying to. You are all setting out to make a difference, somewhere, somehow, no matter how big or how small. As Neil Gaiman says, so much more brilliantly than I could ever say,
“I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful… Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art… write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”
When you are frustrated with your classes and wonder why we make you learn things, I hope you remember the fight that Stanton, Anthony, Woolf, and many others fought to let you even have the opportunity. When you realize you have wings that you can’t spread, like Edna Pontellier, I hope you are able to take careful, wise steps to break free. When you are faced with the confusion of young love, like Elizabeth Bennett, I hope you see through the Wickhams and embrace the Darcys. When you are tempted to cheat and take shortcuts, I hope you remember how well that worked out for Lady Macbeth or Tita de la Garza. And when you feel alone and defeated, remember that there is always someone out there who cares about you and is rooting for you through thick and thin: me!
I am so excited for you and your futures. I am so honored to have been part of your past. Remember where your roots were fastened even as you grow in exciting new ways.
Just do me a favor and remember to always spell “a lot” as two words.