Sunday, March 26, 2017

Leaving The Nest

As a teacher of seniors, I experience "senioritis" every year. About this time every year, it's a race to see who is over it first: me or them. This year is no different. The procrastination and excuses are running rampant in my classroom on both sides of the big desk. In fact, I could be using this time to write lesson plans, or grade papers, or any number of other school related things, but instead, I'm writing. Senioritis is real! 

Once spring break is over and warmer weather sets in, my students will either start to act like they are grown already or will get extremely emotional and nostalgic. I try to keep everyone grounded and remind them that they still have X number of days until graduation or X number of days until their last day. I also give them the speech below every year sometime between Easter break and the end of the year. 

First and foremost, be proud of yourself. You have done something that not everyone does. You have earned enough credits as determined by this state to complete a high school education. Just a couple generations ago, a high school diploma wasn't always guaranteed. So be proud! 

Be humble. Yes, you're graduating from high school, but that's what you're supposed to do. Yes, I'm proud of you, but I'll be more proud of you when you come back and show me your college degree. Or your master's degree. Or a PhD. 

Be thankful for your parents or whomever raised you. They sacrificed more for you than you will ever understand. Yes, you're going to fight with them. You're supposed to fight with them! That shows that you're growing up and testing your little bird wings. But love and appreciate them. One day you'll realize that they are actually intelligent people. 

Don't hold on to toxic relationships. This is a HUGE one! Just because you've known someone since elementary school doesn't mean that y'all have to remain friends until you're in a nursing home. Graduating high school and moving on is a perfect opportunity for you to start fresh: new hair, new school, new job, new friends. All of those are acceptable. If a relationship is physically, emotionally, or sexually toxic, get out! Get help to get you out if you don't know how to get yourself out. 

Don't let pride prevent you from furthering yourself. Be who you are, but be willing and able to admit when you may have gone too far, or when you need to apologize, or redirect your energies. This is another sign of growing up. 

Walk away from anyone who says that high school years are the best years of your life. These are the people who will be hanging out in the Walmart parking lot every night and still going to the high school football games when they're 25. Just because it worked for Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused doesn't mean it will work for you. College is so much better than high school. And marriage is better than college. And being a parent is better than all of those! High school is full of people who are simply together based on where they live, not based on any actual common interests or ambitions. Going to college or into the workforce with people who are pursuing similar interests or similar career paths will let you see that the quirks about you that high school life tends to stifle are actually endearing, amazing, and beautiful. 

On that note, cling to the people who point out the beauty of your quirks. If you watch cartoons while eating dry cereal straight from the box when you're stressed, find the person who thinks that is adorable and joins you. If you like to run every day after school or work, find the person who wants to be your running partner. If you collect plants, find the person who takes you to nurseries and randomly buys you new planters. And I'm not just talking about in a romantic way. Find those friends who make you shine brighter, not who dull your sparkle. 

High school is a necessary stepping stone that prepares you for the next steps in life. It is also a strange, tiny cross-section of some of the people you'll meet once you venture into the "real world." But, it's not the be all, end all for social standing. It's not the measuring stick you should use for everything else that life brings you. The last thing I tell my students before they leave my room every day is, "Have a good day. Make smart choices!" That is really all any of us can hope for - that our days are good, and that we are able to make the smartest choices possible so that we are able to face another day tomorrow.

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