Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life Advice from Third Grade

Ten years ago, I had just finished my first year of teaching.  Twenty-two sweet third graders {what a number, right?!} had spent 180 school days in my classroom; growing, having fun, and {hopefully} learning.  Lessons were taught, laughs were shared, and a unique blend of personalities came together to form a group that left me feeling secure that I had, in fact, chosen the right career path.

Tonight, that group of students graduates high school.

It's strange, really...because I didn't think I'd be so emo over a group of kids I haven't seen in at least 9 years {some, 10}.  But this morning, I woke up extra early to drink in the peace and quiet of a sleeping household.  I went into the closet of our guest room and pulled out my yearbook from that 2003-2004 school year.  Stuffed inside was a stack of multi-colored pages, held together by a single binder clip.  'Third Grade Advice' was scrawled across the front page, a 'mini project' that I had the entire third grade class participate in during their Pro-Social class.  At the top of each page, the prompt read; 'What advice would you give to an incoming third grade student?'.  With an extra large hazelnut latte in hand, I curled up on the end of the couch and read each and every page of advice.  I cracked a smile when I read {on more than one page} 'do all your work in cursive handwriting, {it will prepare you for fourth grade}', written in neat and nearly-perfect D'Nealian print.

As I read, I noticed a few common themes; some cute and fun {like 'bring Miss Sheehan [maiden name] chocolate' and 'don't worry about what teacher you end up with, they're all pretty wonderful'}, while others gave 'appropriate school behavior' advice {'raise your hand', 'don't talk when the teacher is talking', 'study your multiplication facts'}.  Then, there were the tidbits of advice that went beyond 'surviving third grade' {a phrase so many of them integrated into their if they were in the trenches of life.  *smiles*}.

I had been thinking of a post I wanted to write to celebrate that group of kids for a while now, whether or not a single student from that class reads my words or not; they're out there, a celebration of them and a bit of therapy for me as I cross into the world of being a teacher who now has students 'in the real world'.  I wanted to be insightful and thought provoking, write words that will inspire and motivate.  I wanted to write words that will take them into the next step of their lives and beyond, all the while reminding myself of the important things that I want my own children to embody as they grow up.

This morning, as I sipped my latte and strolled down memory lane with the pages of handwritten advice, I realized that my sweet little {once} third graders had helped write this post for me, 9 years earlier.

Third Grade Advice 

Be nice and kind {to your teachers and classmates}.  Yes.  "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".  Enough.said.

Always be prepared.  You may not always be prepared to handle what life throws at you, but you'll be better prepared if have faith in knowing that "this too, shall pass".

Stay in school.  While you'll graduate and move on to other things, one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books says, "The more you read, the more things you'll know.  The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!" Never, ever stop learning.

Appreciate what you have.  Too often, happiness is sought in the things that we don't have.  "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough" {Oprah Winfrey}

Be a good example.  "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching" {John Wooden}.  You never know who could be watching, and who might be impacted by your words, your actions, or your character.  Make decisions wisely.

Don't make excuses to avoid your work.  "Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses" {George Washington Carver}.  "There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure" {Colin Powell}.

Be 'curdeus'. {*smiles*}  "If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world" {Francis Bacon}.

Always wear a smile.  Come in with a smile and leave with a smile.  Never have a frown on your face. {lots of kids mentioned smiles}  "Peace begins with a smile" {Mother Theresa}. "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy" {Thich Nhat Hanh}.

Have a positive attitude at all times. "Keep your face always toward the sunshine--and shadows will fall behind you" {Walt Whitman}.  "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day" {unknown}.

Congratulations to 'my kids' {you'll always be 8 in my memory} on your accomplishments and take pride in the hard work you've encountered on the path that has led you to this place in life.  Where ever the road may lead you; be brave, be honest, be your best.  

"Don't ask what the world needs.  As what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive" {Howard Thurman}

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