When I think of you I remember your sweaty and tired faces, coming in from a too short recess break. I remember your faces turned up with expectation, the occasional roll of the eye and the impulsive outbursts, like popcorn that can't be contained. Mostly, I remember when I felt like you had your own Aha moment. The times your face just lit up... Your hand may have shot upward... or not, depending on how comfortable you felt speaking out in class. But I saw on your beautiful young faces something new, I saw the light of understanding and the recognition of something larger than you. I remember the times you opened your minds and hearts and let the words of the pages written years before you were born penetrate your modern world. I remember the courage with which you asked questions if you didn't understand something.
I hope when you think of your experiences here at STA and in particular, 8th grade Literature you remember the good things. Don't remember the times I failed to give you the best lesson of your life, please. I won't remember the days you didn't give your best effort because most of the time we all brought our A game. So, let's hang on to that!
Some of you have known pain: the death of a beloved family member, the divorce of your parents, the struggle of a learning or attention issue which made learning hard, or the pain of not fitting in with your peer group. When you have known sadness, your capacity for kindness has grown. Don't forget that. You have kept going and working and you are still striving to learn. I am so proud of you for that.
So, here are my final "words of the wiser."
There is a lot that is good and worthy in a great book than you will ever find on Twitter. You can learn more about real life from a 75 year old than you will ever learn from anything posted on Instagram. So occasionally, no frequently, put down your phone, open your eyes, read, question and learn. Never stop being amazed.
Be like Scout, feisty and brave. Be like Jem, loyal and steadfast. Be like Atticus, live with integrity. Be like Tom Robinson, live with forgiveness and truth. Be like Ponyboy and look for what you have in common with people, not what divides you. Be like Wang Li, always looking for the words of wisdom. Don't be like the girl with the white umbrella who finally finds kindness and throws it down the sewer! Stay gold.
You have just a few days of school left. Make them good ones. You probably liked your teachers better in November than you do right now. That is okay, it helps you move on to your next place if you are tired of us. You should know that we have been sleepless in the middle of the night more than a few times, worried about you and hoping we found the key to connect you to your best self. We love you. We send you off (with some relief to be perfectly honest) but mostly gratitude and hope. Thank you for making us smile.