Last Lessons (Part 1)

I am not sure how that sounds! In fact, I am almost afraid to say it. Last sounds better than final. I am hoping to be around a lot longer! There is much more to accomplish.

My last fifth grade class, seven years ago, just graduated. My retiring after this class had nothing whatsoever to do with this particular group even though some seemed to question it when having the great honor to speak to them for their baccalaureate ceremony. It had a lot more to do with topics like standardized testing which I have written numerous letters to individuals involved in making such decisions with no luck whatsoever. Education should be about providing engaging activities for each student. There is no test that can possibly do justice to all the different abilities within our young people, to the endless possibilities in regard to careers. Yet, there are some individuals who still think focusing on standardized exams will somehow help! Do you want your children to go through what you have been through in regard to standardized testing? You may need to be the ones writing letters. Possibly, your voice will be heard!

Undoubtedly, quality education is a key to our lives. Unfortunately, there are still too many young people dropping out of high school. You stayed in school like the students in my other 35 graduating classes. Good decision making is a key to our lives. In the next five years, you will have other important decisions such as more schooling, faith, friends, a job, a spouse -- these are critical and pivotal!

Before sharing my last lessons, let's revisit some of my first and other lessons. Do you remember ...

  • Ducks? We were called the Jets as well as the Ducks. I was at a party where most people were choosing a different beverage than what I had in my hands, Donald Duck Orange Juice. A friend noticed and called me Duck. I was just staying true to myself during this party, something of great importance for all of you. I suspect most of you gave me something related to ducks during the school year. We watched the Mighty Ducks movies, and I pulled lessons from them, in particular the one which the coach is making the point to never forget our names and where we are from.

    As many of you will be leaving Hope, it is of utmost importance to remember where you got your roots and your wings. We had a few Clapping/Quacking Duck Programs where I would interview one of you. We would start the program clapping and quacking and end it that way. It was fun. More importantly, we got to know one another. It is a lot easier to accomplish goals when that's the case!

  • Determination? It was on the bulletin board in big letters to the left as you entered the room. As I was watching the movie "Rudy," I thought of the word. Rudy was an individual who very much wanted to play football at Notre Dame. After being on the practice squad for a very long time, he finally got to dress for one game and got to play a few seconds. It was his dream. We watched the movie and discussed the importance of chasing and catching dreams our entire lives. In the same area of determination, there were character words which surrounded the Autograph Board. You had the opportunity to sign it for academic and/or character excellence. It was always full by the end of each nine weeks. All of you have just signed it again!

  • CURE? In the beginning of my career, I stressed "Respect." Then, I was watching an episode of Little House On The Prairie when students in the class were not treating a classmate very well. The teacher put two words on the board, "Compassion" and "Understanding." It then hit me that I needed to make a change. For years, it was CUR until thinking there actually needed to be a word that started with E. "Empathy" was perfect. All of our classroom rules started with CURE, the cure-all for all issues, then and now!