"Can you sign my yearbook?"
As another year draws to a close my heart is full of all the excitement of completing another journey, conquering a new school, new subject, and making great friends along the way. Today Lecanto Middle had their 8th grade celebration. We ordered food for the students, had inflatable games, the whole nine-yards. Students received their yearbooks, and with that comes the inevitable question..."Can you sign my yearbook?" The yearbook signing process can be intense, this book could end up on their bookshelves, in a box, or in the garbage. The intensity can be palpable because you never know if that student will take that book out at some point down the road in need of a pick me up, a smile, or just a laugh connected to a memory.
If you're like me, the end of the year can be a stressful time. There are events every day and most nights. The pressure to keep up can be difficult, and in those times, I know I pour my stress out on my students. The temptation to push the book away for another time, or to just throw down a quick, "You're great, have a great summer! :) Mr. Leonard" is ever-present. In that moment I have a choice: I can take the time to send a message of support, or disengage completely. If I choose the later, I potentially lose the perfect opportunity to do what I long to do, make a life long impact on my students.
That note I put down doesn't have to be a pearl of wisdom, or an eloquent stroke of genius, it just has to be authentically what I want that student to know.
"Taelor, remember that no matter who tells you you're not good enough, they're wrong. You are an amazing young lady, and I can't wait to see how you change the world." :) Mr. Leonard
"Michael, your sense of humor can either be the reason for your success or bring about its demise, harness your strengths, remember that there is a time and place for everything, and that sense of humor will serve you well." :) Mr. Leonard
"Deanna, I can't imagine this class without you, although your story has had its ups and downs, remember that you have the power to change the world. Your personality, if allowed to show, can move mountains." Mr. Leonard
I'm not a poet, and I don't think of myself as a particularly good writer, but I know what my heart says when I think about my students. I have seen their happiness and their pain. I have walked alongside them as they have endured both. My dream is that one day 5, 10, or even 20 years from now, one of my students will open that book, look to the back page, and find inspiration once again.
I challenge you, as the year comes to a close at each school across the world, don't just stamp the same HAGS line with your name. Give them a reminder of who they are, who they are becoming, and what they will accomplish.