I didn’t intend for our journey to end this way. Following my year-long maternity leave last year, I excitedly returned to teaching this past fall and thought I would pick up right where I left off and continue on my career path, full-steam ahead. I spent hours decorating my new classroom with Pinterest inspired ideas and colorful patterns. I revamped my curriculum and changed up my materials to reflect the changing demands and interests of your generation. I planned our entire year down to the day and wrote it all out on a color-coded calendar. I thought I could do it all. Teaching full time and being a full-time mom of three little kids wouldn’t be so difficult. Or so I thought.
And then October rolled around and my sweet kindergartner asked me if I could attend her field trip to the pumpkin patch. And my son asked if I could volunteer to help at his Halloween party. I desperately wanted to, but there was just one problem: I had a classroom to run during that time and I couldn’t just leave my own classroom to go to another. You see, a teacher’s schedule is a pretty great schedule for a mom. You get to spend your summers and seasonal school breaks with your family, not to mention the added bonus of snow days. But you miss out on a bunch of other stuff. Important stuff. Because my first class starts before my kids are even awake, my daughter’s hairstyle on picture day was left for my husband to work out. He gave it a valiant effort, but he just doesn’t know how to navigate a curling iron and his French braiding skills need a bit more practice. Because my 4th hour is during my son’s lunchtime, I had to decline the invitation to attend his Thanksgiving Feast. Sure, I saw how much fun he had in the images posted on Facebook by other mothers, but these are moments that just don’t translate well through pictures. And then, on November 21, I picked him up from school and, with a shaky voice and watery eyes, he asked me why I didn’t send in birthday treats to his classroom that morning. The truth is, I’d forgotten all about it. I’d been so busy grading papers the night before and running from one practice to the next that I’d dropped the ball on his special day. And that was it. My son’s 7th birthday was the day I decided that I couldn’t do it all. If I wanted to be the best mother I could be to my children, I had to be more present and not preoccupied with an all-consuming career. I had to find a different path that would allow me the flexibility to play a more prominent role in all aspects of their lives. I wanted to be there with them and I wanted to be there for them. And that’s why I can’t stay here with you.
Please don’t think this was an easy decision. In fact, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Throughout the course of the year you have become my children too. I carry your challenges home with me and I’ve spent many sleepless nights pondering possible solutions or scheming up ways to help you achieve your goals. I think about your futures and worry about any roadblocks that might come your way. I celebrate your accomplishments and cheer you on in the stands. I admire your talents and strengths and pray that you realize your full potential. I treasure your quirkiness, I laugh at your silly jokes, and I love your awkwardness. I am your biggest fan...and that will never change.
- You were born to be great. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. It takes all types of talents to run the world and I’ve seen what you can do when you put your mind to it.
- There is going to come a time when you are faced with a decision. When that time comes, you might be too scared to take a chance. Do it anyway. Life is too short to live with regret and the limb is stronger than you think.
- Action cures anxiety. If you are nervous about a speech or anxious about a test, the fastest way to relieve that feeling is to take a deep breath and begin. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you have to trust me on this one. Just get out of your head and get it done.
- You wouldn’t care so much about what people thought of you if you knew how seldom they really did. Everyone is too busy living their own lives to obsess about your new hairstyle or your lack of expensive shoes. I don’t mean this to be harsh, I mean it to be freeing. Just remember: the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.
- Don’t believe people who tell you that these are the best years of your life. It gets better…so much better.
- Tell people you love them. Sometimes we neglect to tell others how we feel about them because we are embarrassed or we think they already know or we are worried the feelings won’t be reciprocated. Get over this fear. If there’s one thing we need in this world it’s more love.
- You are a Buck. With that distinction comes a tremendous amount of pride and an enormous amount of responsibility. We are a Herd thousands strong with roots that run deep. You carry the torch of the many who came before you and are tasked with continuing our traditions and carrying on our legacy. Never forget the strong foundation that was provided to you by a community that cares about you.
- You are the leading role in the play of your life. Speak loudly. Move with a purpose. Show your emotions. Pause for laughs. Leave it all on the stage.
Well crew, that’s all I have for you today. It’s been a great run and the memories will last a lifetime. I look forward to reuniting at graduation parties and Homecoming games, wedding receptions, and baby showers. Thank you for restoring my faith in your generation and teaching me that connections and relationships are the most important part of our educational process. If the future of our nation depends on you, I am confident that we are in good hands. I love each and every one of you and am honored to have been a small part of your life. Keep in touch.