I took my first teaching job just outside of Atlanta in 1999. I was fresh out of college, new to the big city, and looking about seventeen years old. I actually wasn't much older.... a whopping 22 and given a classroom of twenty-five kids. Who allowed that???
My first class of students were fourth graders and I absolutely adored them. I somehow lucked out with a bunch of really sweet kids who got along and listened to a teacher that could have been their older sister.
Those kids are graduating from college this month. Gulp.
(Well, most of them. There are some on the five and six year plans- much love for y'all too)
This is my letter to them.
To my Crabapple Crossing Fourth grade class of 1999,
First of all, thank you. When you walked into my classroom on that August morning, you had no idea that I was a nervous wreck and pretty sure I was going to ruin all of you for life during your year with me. I had been put in charge of twenty-five precious, vulnerable minds and was expected to actually teach you things that you would take into the rest of your life. Yowsers. Quite a challenge.
Thankfully, you were up for the challenge. You were willing to learn, you asked funny (and sometimes inappropriate) questions, and you made me want to come to work everyday. I loved my year with you. So much in fact, that I moved up with you went you went to fifth grade. I got two great years with you. You were my favorites. Seriously. (Ignore the fact I told all my other classes that too.)
And then you graduated high school and I was there, with tears in my eyes, watching you walk and get your diplomas, wondering how time flew by so fast. I wrote you Red Letters, encouraging you as you stepped into college. Prayed for you as you went off to UGA, Auburn, GA Tech, Alabama....
Four years later, you are walking to get another diploma. And somehow I'm still only turning 25 this year. It's amazing, huh?
If I could tell you a few things as you graduate from college this month- here is what I want you to know....
1. This is your time to GO. It is the best time of your life to travel where you've always wanted- you have decades ahead of you to work at that job, find your significant other, buy your dream home.... THIS is the time to travel, to serve, to go where you feel like you are being called. Move away from good ol' Alpharetta- experience other parts of the country or even the world. You can always come home. And mom will be there to hug you.
2. Don't settle. Now that you are potentially heading out to the "real" world, you've got some decisions to make. Where you need to work, where to put down roots, who to marry....all questions you may feel that need to be figured out ASAP. They don't. You don't need to take the first job that comes along. You don't need to marry your college sweetheart. They may be great, but if they aren't the best, don't fall into the trap of getting engaged/married just because that's what everyone does. You've got all the time in the world - don't settle for the first thing that comes along because that's what everyone else may be doing.
3. Be a game-changer. You are leaving college with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and a willingness to work. Use those gifts to change the world. There is lots to be done to make this world healthier, safer, and a better place. Please be a part of the change. My generation and those older than me NEED your heart and your vision to partner and build on what we've been doing.
I am so, so proud of the men and women you have become and thankful to have walked a small part of the journey with you. Thank you for the sweet memories you gave me 13 years ago.
Praying for you as the next adventure begins in your life.
GO. Don't settle. Be a Game-Changer. And come visit if you're ever in Montgomery, AL.
Love you all,