At present, I’m starting a new year with new students. As I’m looking to the future, I’m thrown back to the past – to all the students who have stepped through this room, have sat in theses seats, have longed to get out of this school.
A teacher’s character is a collective contribution made by the thousands of lives who step into our rooms. A teacher is clay, molded, prodded, and shaped by each student, each moment.
Some of you were lights – shining your curiosity and dedication, illuminating our own passions and hope.
Some of you were sandpaper – the friction of your angst and emotion whetted our personality and skill, sharpening and refining us.
No matter who you were in high school, you impacted my life. Your life mattered to me then. And it matters now.
To the many former students in the “real world,” know that I haven’t forgotten about you. I think about you. I see you. And, I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of you for being an adult.
I’m proud of you for growing.
I’m proud of you for showing the world what you’re capable of.
Some of you are just stepping foot into life after high school. I see you making the leap amidst the anxiety and excitement. I’m proud of you for facing uncertainty on the path of defining your life.
I see you plugging away at post-secondary education, even though school is hard and expensive and long. I’m proud of you for pushing on.
I see you grinding to make a living, as mechanics and retailers, beauticians and servers, musicians and artists. College isn’t for everyone. I’m proud of you for still using your gifts and talents for a greater good.
I see some of you fighting the demons of mental illness – some of which you faced in high school, some you’ve never seen before. I’m proud of you for getting up every day, for pushing through the pain, for getting support, and for not giving up.
One of the greatest burdens of knowing so many young lives is seeing too many end too soon. Through tragedy and circumstance, I’ve watched young people die. In the brevity of their existence, they leave meaning in their wake. I’m proud of you, the friends of the fallen, for not letting your classmates’ lives be forgotten. I’m proud of you for moving forward rather than letting go.
Some of you have created new life as parents. No longer are you figuring life out for the an individual; you are figuring life out for a unit, a family. I’m proud of you for giving your all and forgiving yourself when you fall – for righting your past wrongs by doing and being better for someone else. Every. Day.
To all the students who have entered and exited my life, know that I might struggle to pull up your name – because damn it, it’s hard to remember thousands of names. But I remember your energy. I remember your smiles, your angst, your wit and personality.
I remembered that you mattered then.
I know that you matter now.
I’m proud of you for proving that truth.