Monday, May 21, 2018

A letter to 5th graders

Towards the end of each school year I like to take time to look back on the past 9 months and process how my year went and share a personal reflection--Like the one I did last year here.  There’s usually plenty of room for my own self-improvement and changes to be made for the next year (I've already got a list!).  My heart often is drawn to our 5th graders in this time of reflection and goodbyes.  These kids who have been with us since they could first say their ABC’s and now they’re flying from the nest.  They're awkward, smelly, kind of butt heads a lot of days, but also intelligent, witty and driven human beings.  They won’t be back the next year to encourage, to teach, to see grow and succeed.  We grow accustomed to seeing these little people day in and day out and then they leave and sometimes it feels like a part of you leaves with them. 

In honor of their fierce and lovely little spirits, I decided to write them a letter.  A letter that if I were to write a couple months ago might have a few expletives and exclamation points ("Why the *&%@ are you *&%$@!* doing that AGAIN?!), but now that we are near the end and goodbyes are in sight, it's a bit more rational and sentimental---I've regulated my emotions and I'm in the green zone.  Jesus has once again fixed everything by giving educators summer break.  Am I right?!

It's an ode to the 5th grade grads if you will as they’ll never see it, but now it’s out in the universe with all it’s good vibes to reach them wherever they end up.  And maybe, just maybe, there’s a bit of a message for all of us too.

Dear 5th graders,

If you were to know me really well, you would know that I love cameras and love to take pictures.  Whether it’s a super high tech camera with a lens more expensive than my car, or just my iPhone---snapping memories literally frozen in time on a tiny little screen is a treasure I will always find joy in.

I read a quote the other day that---I’m not sure if it was my love for photography that pressed an emotion in me, or the thought of life, goodbyes and upcoming transitions for all of us.

The quote said, “Life is like a camera.  Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out---take another shot.”

Can I break that down for a minute?

Focus on what’s important.  I can tell you from experience---what is important to you now, will likely just be a memory or fad to look back on in your future.  And hey, if you wait long enough—the fads always come back! The latest kicks, the coolest clothes, the most updated iPhone or gaming systems.  They are pretty sweet, sure---but 5 years from now, heck, 5 months from now—they’ll lose their luster.  It’s just how our society works---we’re fed this lie to believe that we NEED stuff to make us feel and look important.   But funny how that stuff never truly keeps us happy—and it’s always changing.  Know what doesn’t change?  That friend that is, has always been and will always be there for you.  That quality time that you get to do something you love with someone you look up to or go out for ice cream and laugh until you can’t breathe.  The sports games that bring your team together like family and that family of yours that makes you feel like a team. Focus on what’s important---because at the end of our lives, we won’t care about our Jordan’s, flossing (the dance. Please continue to floss!)  or how many followers we have on (insert latest social media craze here) or how great your slime turned out, we’ll want to be surrounded by those we love and love us back.

Capture the good times.  Friends, have a crazy lot of fun.  If you don’t have a sense of humor, go find one and live in that bubble, because you need some humor in this world! Have some fun that’ll make you look back when you’re old like me and just smile knowing that you lived your best life and didn’t rush to be older.  Have fun---be silly---and for goodness sakes, don’t take yourselves too seriously—laugh at yourself! We’re all weird---every one of us---embrace the awkward! Capture the good times by enjoying them---don’t hurry into them and don’t fly onto the next exciting moment, but sit in the experiences you get to have and enjoy them until their last drop. They’ll fly by, I can promise you that.

Develop from the negatives. This one stings a bit.  No one loves to welcome mistakes, failures and upsets---but we all experience them—even those whom we look up to.  What do you think drove those individuals to where they are?  Negative and trying times help to mold us into a greater humans if we allow them to.  Don’t push against it and resist, don’t try to cover them up or bury them inside and please don’t be ashamed if you are going through something tough.  It’s ok to not be ok.  We've all been--or will be there.  Fall down, rest in the fact that you’re not the only down there, and then when you’re ready, get back up and take another shot. You are so much stronger than you think! Learn from what just happened and try again, move on or let something go—whether its anger, sadness, fear or guilt---drop those bags of emotions to the ground and walk away.  And if you’re down and you see someone else down in the valley of failure, hurt or loss with you—help each other out.  We need each other.  There is no need for competition here—cheer each other on.  Ask for help too.  Seriously, this is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself AND someone else! Helping is a talent—a skill.  When you allow someone to help you, you are allowing them to use a talent they have---let them. 

Scholars, you’ve done your time here.  You’ve broken your fair share of crayons making your beautiful elementary artwork.  You’ve sung your hearts out at spring sings and musicals.  You’ve been asked to show zero voice and walk in the halls about fifty bajillion times. You’ve got an impressive amount of waffle breakfasts, school BBQ’s, movie nights and carnivals under your belt.  You are our patrols, WDTV news anchors, ambassadors, school store clerks.  You are our future professional athletes, medical professionals, artists, teachers, mechanics, tradesmen/women, engineers, chefs and servers, politicians (hello future president!), computer programmers and so much more.  But it all started here--You are our Woodland Eagles!

You’ve exhausted us a little (okay, a lot)....but you've also helped us to understand the world better and have taught us more about ourselves than you will ever know. Thank you for that and for the sheer joy that working with you brings to our souls. 

“Life is like a camera.  Focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out---take another shot.”


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