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A Parting Speech I Can’t Give To My Students

Every teacher imagines giving a kick-ass speech on the last day of class.

It’s all laid out in their minds’ eye.

They stand in front of the room giving a passionate speech about overcoming adversity.

A personal anecdote thrown in.

The students sit rapt.

One even sheds a tear.

Finally with that last rhetorical flourish, there is a brief pause and then the entire class bursts into rapturous applause.

But that only happens on TV.

In real life a high school social studies semester ends like this:

“Wait. There’s a minute left in the period? It was great having you guys. I have one thing I want to say. Remember – stop putting your books away for a second – remember to….”

The bell rings. The kids fly out the door.

Here’s a speech that I’d like to give though:

– I clear my throat. –

Before you all leave I just want to take the moment to give you each a bit of parting wisdom.

Let’s be honest. You are teenagers. You are used to having all sorts of people talk AT you as if they have the secret of life, and you don’t.

And here’s a little secret I have for you.

There is no secret of life.

Anyone who says there is one is completely full of crap.

The truth is: you’re going to be fine.

Adults don’t give you enough credit.

The vast majority of you are perfectly normal people and will live perfectly normal lives.

And in each of your lives, there will be times when things absolutely suck.

And there will be times when no matter how many people tell you things will get better, things won’t get better.

You will say the wrong thing, and you won’t be forgiven.

The relationship that you tried so hard to salvage will end.

The sick family member you stayed up all night praying for will die.

There will be times when, yes, it will better to lose hope then to waste time dreaming about the impossible.

But you are going to have to keep moving.

The worst mistake you can ever make in life is to wallow in your sorrows.

You need to take time to lick your wounds.

You will need to take time to mourn.

But then you’re going to have to keep moving.

Look around you.

Every single one of you will bury a family member.

Every single one of you will lose a friend.

Every single one of you won’t be forgiven.

And every single one of you will be fine.

– Thunderous applause right before the bell rings. –


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