Preplanning starts in one week, so I decided that I needed to go be in the space alone for a little while today.
I'm sitting in my classroom, trying to decide what needs to be done first. I came armed with iced coffee with a shot of espresso and extra cream, but I also have a head cold and a pounding headache, so I have the strongest feeling that not one chair or desk will be moved today.
Beside my desk is a huge corkboard that is about to be rotated to the back wall because it is pinned and glued and stuffed to overflowing-- it's one of my favorite things in the room. On this board are old football ribbons, tiny pictures doodled on sticky notes, prom pictures, birthday cards, snarky notes ("Advice to freshmen: If you wanna get cool with the upperclassmen, you def need to do illegal stuff and throw lots of parties. Fights are good, too. Like Mrs. Swaney says, 'Always run toward the fight!'"), a thank you note from a precious struggling freshman (who is now a sophomore in college) that simply says, in trembling script, "Thank you for teaching me." There's a keychain from Korea, a list of idioms from other countries on an index card (I have no idea what assignment that was attached to)-- "To live like a maggot in bacon! German for 'to live in luxury' :), and a newspaper clipping where I came in third after Peggy Hanahan and Mike Ryan for "biggest heart" on the teacher superlatives one year.
At the bottom of the board is an envelope with one of my favorite things I've read from one of my freshmen. I can't remember what year it was written, but the name of the student is on the front and I will not soon forget him-- he was amazing. Here's what it says:
Dear upcoming freshman,
Now, I am writing this letter because I have to give you advice. Now I'm going to give you advice on what I was asking people older than me in high school or that were out of high school. Like, "how do you get girls?" or "how can I be popular?"
Popularity: Popularity is not all it's cracked up to be. There's more drama and more fake friends usually when you're popular. You let it all go to your head and you leave your real friends in the dark.
Popularity is not the same as middle school. If you were popular in middle school, there's a chance you won't be popular in high school. But on this note, the best thing to do is just be yourself because it's only high school and soon you will be out and no one will remember what you did four years ago.
Schoolwork and sports: School work will always be hard and boring, but that's only if you make it hard. If you have the mindset of "Let me get this done so I can pass and have no worries" then you will be fine.
Once you have your grades up then sports will become easier because you wouldn't have to worry about school work. Always take the chance to make up work, too, because you don't want to do it at the end of the year.
Drama: Every teenager's worst nightmare is to have drama. Try to stay away from drama because it will eat you up on the inside. You might understand how that feels and it's a word I can't write on this paper.
Gang Influences: NO! I'm telling you this is not the way to go. In high school they do not play and you can get hurt bad. It's not like middle school where kids think it's a game...It's not a game, okay?
Swag: Your own swag is your swag. Me, I'm more of a Bred 11s with some camo pants, a t-shirt and a snapback light skin curly headed kind of dude, but that's me. You might be different. But like I said, be yourself.
The rest you can learn on the way and tell that to the freshmen next year. Just remember this letter because trust me you can learn from it. I hope you have fun for the rest of your experience in high school.
You know, I quote my students all year long with a hashtag #fqotd or #stufffreshmensay -- freshmen are hilariously funny to me. But this reminds me again that one of my favorite things about freshmen is that they are old enough to have a fun conversation with, but young enough to still say almost everything they think. This transition time in their lives...their skin is freaking out, they haven't figured out their hair yet, and their voices are changing. They are hyper aware of all of their flaws in many cases, but just waking up to being aware that being different can be amazing, too. And if you can catch them juuuuust right....they'll blow your mind with their wisdom.
I think my headache is fading....