I've been having a problem ever since summer started where I dream about the fourth grade. Usually it's the last day of school, usually the kids leave without saying good-bye to me, and then I fall asleep in my classroom from sheer exhaustion. I dream this every night.
In real life, that's not how it was. In real life, we talked about our favorite memories from fourth grade, and noticed how much we grew and changed as a class. In real life, we had a recess and my girls braided my hair. In real life, I bought them a 24" pizza and we watched a movie together. And then the bell rang and we cried. I mean, a lot of kids cried. And that made me cry.
Something magical happened in my fourth grade classroom this past year. I was devastated to see those little kids walk out of my classroom for the last time. I have so much I need them to know! I have so much I want them to understand. About themselves, their potential, the real important things in life... I want to be with them the next few years so that I can tell them all about it, but that's unfortunately not how the school system works. So here, on this blog, I will write them my own Last Lecture: What I Wish My Fourth Graders Knew.
I think one thing we can agree on this year, fourth graders, is that we learned to be kind. I know, we still had our moments where we slipped up and fought with our friends, or made someone feel bad, but I really feel like we genuinely cared about one another. This is good. As you grow up, you'll still have moments where you fight with your friends, or where you don't like someone very much, but you need to remember to still be kind. Be sincere, truly apologize, put yourself in their shoes.
A lot of you kids come from tough backgrounds. You have a lot going against you. It might seem easy to accept your fate of not graduating high school, not going to college, maybe going to jail - because that's the life that you come from. But you have to remember that you're in charge of your own life. If you want to graduate high school and college, you can do it. You just have to put in the effort. Every choice you make in that direction will just make your life easier in the long run. It might seem hard, it might seem uncool - but remember, Begin With The End In Mind. If you have a goal of where you want to end up, and you truly work for that goal, you'll make it. Believe in yourselves! Don't give up. Don't quit. Don't stop working toward something you really want just because it seems impossible in the beginning.
Choose the right friends. Be aware of how your friends make you feel. Do you feel better after hanging out with them? Or worse? Because you want to hang out with the ones who make you feel better. We should be kind to everyone, but that doesn't mean you need to surround yourself with everyone. You can be choosey when it comes to people you spend most of your time with, and I advise you to do so. Choose uplifting people, choose people with strong morals, choose people who encourage you to do your best and don't let petty jealousies or arguments get in the way. Along those lines, be the friend you want to have. You be the uplifting, encouraging friend with good morals, and that's the type of friends you will attract.
Choose to be healthy. You don't need any drugs or alcohol in your life. You also don't need hours and hours of video games or tv shows. Go outside! Go to the movies! Go camping, go shopping, go rock climbing, go go go! Get out, be adventurous! There is a great big world out there made just for you. Don't ignore it by getting high or drunk or lazy. There's no benefit to those things. No true happiness there.
You're going to have hard times in life. Everyone does. Don't let these times define you. Don't become a person built from only the hard times. Take the hard times and grow with them, and when the good times come back, find the joy there! Take the bad and learn from it, but be defined by the good. We have plenty of bitter, unhappy people in the world. We need more grateful, joyful people. Be kind, be honest, be thoughtful, be dreamers, and be good leaders.
And always remember, your fourth grade teacher Mrs. Casey loves you and believes in you more than you will ever know.