At the end of every school year, you lose dozens of relationships that changed you. That’s no small thing. Teaching is a personal act that binds teacher and student together even if that binding isn’t made in mutual affection. To teach and learn is to come together.
Every year when students walk out of class for the last time, there can be a lot of emotions. I always have the urge to leave them with one last nugget that they can take with them and use when they get in a tight spot. Hopefully the school year was full of these, but the last day of school–well, that’s it. Your last shot to make that kind of impact.
Yes, through email, social media, and return visits to the school you can still “talk” to students, but once they’re gone it’s not the same. It changes somehow.
So below are 30 ideas to get you started, based off a similar post we did last year. You may have to adjust them for your own grade level and content area, but then again, don’t you always?
30 Things To Tell Students You’ll Never See Again
1. Thank you.
2. Perspective is everything. Where your thoughts lead, your life will go.
2. It’s not about you. Nothing ever is.
3. Establish your own measures of success. Do this early on, and never look back.
4. Find courage in purpose and ideas, not some abstraction like “inside yourself.” Purpose can be courageous even when you’re afraid.
6. Use the wisdom around you. Learn to find wisdom everywhere. In nature, in music, in mistakes, in the quiet.
7. Pick your battles.
8. No one hates reading. You’re probably just a very picky reader. Most people walk into a bookstore surrounded by thousands of books, and may be deeply interested in only a few dozen. That’s normal. Find those few dozen.
9. Learn to laugh at yourself.
10. Surround yourself with inspiring people and ideas.
11. If you don’t like something about your life, change it. Nothing is worse than letting yourself down.
12. Leave things better than you found them.
13. Be brutally honest with yourself.
14. Question everything.
15. Having integrity means doing the right thing when no one is looking.
16. Think globally, act locally.
17. Digital citizenship is human citizenship. If we’re going be super-philosophical about things, your life isn’t yours, it’s everyone’s.
18. Trust yourself.
19. Your work and your life don’t have to be “separate.” Your “work” doesn’t necessarily mean a career, and definitely doesn’t mean “job.” Your work is your daily interaction with the world. Choose carefully.
20. Know who in your life to go to for what.
21. Talk less, listen more.
22. Happiness isn’t what you think it is. You’ve been taught by Hollywood and social convention that jobs, money, marriage, and always-on entertainment are the goals of life. But true happiness comes from, among other sources, a sense of alignment–of volition and agency. Freedom. Artistry. Craftsmanship. Connecting. Living out what you believe.
It may work out differently for you–and that’s the point. It’s different for everyone.
23. Every now and then start your thinking over. Reset your perspective. You’ll never really be able to do this, but try. All the crap you’ve been internalizing for all of these years you’ve done so without experience—and you’re likely to take those cognitive biases and emotional prejudices out with you into the early stages of your adult life.
24. Don’t do what your teachers and parents have told you to do. They love you, but they can’t possibly understand the complexity of your life and hopes and thoughts and dreams and fears, and will try to anyway, unwittingly projecting their own insecurities and aspirations on you. And when you follow it, your life will be an underwhelming, room temperature, sticky wet noodle. It’s your life, and thus your work.
25. Decide what is “good work” for you, and resist the urge to socialize it to get everyone’s approval. While the product of your work may ultimately be public, your own moment-to-moment interaction with that work is life, and is fiercely private. Every night when the lights go out and we’re all ultimately alone, those well-intentioned people that love you are somewhere being forced to confront their own work, and their own insecurities, hopes, frustrations, and dreams. And you with yours.
26. Prioritize endlessly. It’s not always easy to see that X will cause Y. As things change, don’t be afraid to let go of things that no longer fit.
27. Admit when you’re wrong.
28. I’m your teacher for life. If you ever need me, find me.
29. Don’t oversimplify what’s complex; don’t over-think what’s simple.
30. Try to align your behavior with your belief system and not the other way around.