Advice to My Students

It’s been a week of drama, and not the kind I’m paid to teach.  The quarter ended last week, so grades were finalized, and on top of that, spring break is next week.  The students are caught between the heaviness of responsibility and the lightness of freedom, and the result is that they’ve gone stark raving mad. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of nosedives in performance, a lot of behavior issues, and a lot of uncomfortable parent phone calls (today’s winner: a call home about inappropriate language in which I informed a mom that “He suggested that his friend suck his… body part.”)
It’s one of those weeks when I wish I could give the kids some advice. But what’s the point?  You probably remember how seriously you took the advice of adults, when you were a kid.  After all, what did adults know?  Adults were boring people with houses and jobs who had settled for mediocrity.  If they knew anything, they’d be celebrities.  Or at least they’d be cool.  They sure wouldn’t be teachers. 
So, since they won’t listen to me, I’m going to write them an open letter here on my blog. 
Hi, kids. 
You know how much I love you.  I want you to be happy. 
I also want you to pull yourselves together.
I can see further down the road than you can, because I’ve traveled down it further than you have.  Along the way, I’ve learned some things I’d like to share.  If you’re capable of believing what I tell you, then you can skip a lot of heartache.  Here are ten things I know, in no particular order. 
1. There’s no way to skip the heartache.  I’m sorry.  But you’ll never understand the things on this list until you’ve lived them.
2.  He’s not worth it.  She’s not worth it.  The one for you is out there – maybe more than one is out there – but the likelihood that he or she sits next to you in 7th-grade math is about on par with the likelihood that you’re going to discover that you are, in fact, royalty, and that the time has come for you to reclaim your distant country.  It’s not impossible.  But you’d be crazy to base important decisions on it.
3.  If you’re not good at it, but you want to be good at it, then you can be good at it.  But you have to work.
4.  Work doesn’t happen like a movie montage.  A burst of intense effort, the length of one rock song, will never cut it.  Work is when you apply yourself every day, a little at a time, and you can’t see how much you’ve done until you’ve strung an awful lot of days together.  Work is hard, and it can be very boring, and sometimes it feels pointless.  But stringing those days together and looking back to see what you’ve built is the best way to find out what you’re made of. 
5.  When you say and do things that hurt people, they remember.  Forever. 
6.  The things that have hurt you will stay with you.  Forever.  But you will find that you are stronger, more resilient, and more sensitive to other people because of what you’ve been through.  I wouldn’t be as good a writer or teacher if I hadn’t been bullied.  It’s a horrible price to pay, but you will come through it, and you’ll be okay.  You’ll be better than okay.  Oh, I wish I could convince you of this one. 
7.  Honesty is the best policy –
8.  – unless it serves no purpose but to hurt. 
9.  If you have to pretend to be a certain way around your friends, then they are not your friends.  You can only meet your real friends by being who you really are.  And when you are completely yourself, and you find the friends who understand you and love you, then your life will change forever.  Trust me. 
10.  You are valuable and worthy and lovable.  No matter what. 
Ms. Morrison
p.s.  For those of you with questions about number ten, the answer is yes.  No matter what.

1 Comment

  1. Yes, yes, and more yes! All of it – yes. I think you should read this to your students, even if some of them won’t listen and most of them won’t understand it all (at least for a few more years).

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