One of the traditions that I loved most about our awards day was the TERRIFIC kid awards sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. Each 9 weeks, teachers picked two students who embodied certain traits. At this awards' day, the traits focused on were Inquisitive and Capable. Teachers then write letters to the students receiving the awards and read them aloud during the ceremony. It is such an opportunity to speak life over kids and I would always get emotional and cry…especially when reading the letters for capable at the end of the year. Sitting in the audience on this day was no different. As I heard the letters being read for former students, I teared up, as did the mommas next to me.
It was odd being at an awards' day and not having a part in it for sure, so I wanted to take a moment and share what was on my heart for these students, as well as many others who ended school years. There are things I wished teachers would have told me when I was leaving school that I would have shared with my students if I had the chance again.
1. You will make mistakes! And you will make many through life. But what you do with those mistakes is the difference between failure and success. Take each mistake or misstep that happens and learn from it. There is always a lesson or a piece that you can use to improve your life or situation, your job is to find it even if it is difficult.
2. People will be mean…but try to look beyond the outward display of meanness and find the heart. For some people, that meanness is the result of mistreatment by others, wrong decisions and regret, hurt, or fear.
3. Be kind even when it is difficult. People will always remember how you made them feel. While it is easy to retaliate, especially when people are being mean to you, hold your head high and always treat people well.
4. Set goals and go after them. It is easy to make a list of goals and then forget them. But each day, make a step toward achieving them. Even if it is a small step, it is movement in a forward direction.
5. Dream BIG! The only dreams not achieved are those not realized….don't let anyone tell you your dreams are too big or unrealistic. If you can dream it, chances are you can achieve it.
6. Don't settle! There will be setbacks along the way, but don't forget the dreams and goals that you have set for yourself. Always strive to be better - a better person, a better student, a better employee.
7. Use your voice! We have all been gifted with a voice to use to better our world. For some of us that is a vocal voice and we are comfortable standing up for someone in public, defending rights out loud. But, for others, that voice may be through writing or praying. Use it for good to change your world.
8. Thank the people who have helped you along the way. There are so many who have landed helping hands or worked behind the scenes throughout your school years, thank those who have. They have all done it because they loved each of you.
9. Make us proud. Go out and be somebody or something and give it your all. Make all of us proud who have cheered you on in classrooms, on sidelines, at awards' days.
To all of my former students…I sincerely mean these words and I would tell them to you today if you were sitting here with me drinking a cup of coffee. You have been gifted with tools and knowledge to change the lives of those around you and make your world a better place by being who you are! We need you all to live out your life with your gifts and talents and personalities. I look forward to hearing stories of students and the dreams that are achieved along the way. Congratulations on another year completed!