Dear Students,

How do you sum up three years in a letter? It’s difficult. This is my attempt.

It’s Dec 5th, 2014 I am sitting in my room (in the dark) grading papers and was overwhelmed with emotion. I started crying. Yes, boys, crying. It’s okay when no one is watching, It is okay when people are watching too. I was happy because of the opportunity I have to work with such incredible students. Even the ones who don’t enjoy reading, writing or studying, etc. I am truly blessed to have each of you in my class this year. I am a better teacher now than I was four months ago, and I am sure I will be better in May than I am now.

This year has been a challenge for me. It was a challenge because I am teaching a new grade, some new skills, as well as some new units. It was also a challenge because of the makeup of my students. Instead of having 185 kids that I have never met, I had 90 kids that I hadn’t met, and 95 or so that I previously had in class. One of my worst fears was that I would not be able to get to know my new students as well as I did the students I had in seventh grade. Unfortunately, I think this happened. I also feel that sometimes it is easier to get to know students who will “let” you get to know them. Having said that,

Apologies

I have probably hurt some people’s feelings. It may have been through a sarcastic comment, pushing a little too hard, or expecting too much from a particular student. My intent has never been to hurt, but to get your best effort or have you produce your best work.

The masks we all wear

Allowing people to know the true us or our “real” identity is difficult because if they don’t like what they see, we have nothing else to offer. We all have our reasons why we wear masks, but I can only speak on my reasons. It is mostly due to fear. I have grown past that now, and I have a much better life and view of myself.

“I don’t talk things, sir,” said Faber. “I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive.”

This quote represents a lot of things, but more importantly it represents the way I view and interact with my students. I tried to listen to and encourage you to share and grow your ideas, opinions, and feelings this year. I believe that when you treat people with respect and like adults they will in turn respect you and act like adults. I also think that why we do things is just as important as how we do them.

Are you a Clarisse or Mildred

These women looked at the world very differently, and both had a very different influence on Montag. I hope that you can identify which of these two fictional characters you are similar to and make the necessary adjustments.

Boys

Real Men Care (Link)  For the first time in your schooling career, you probably had more male teachers than female teachers. You were part of the“ManPod” or as the other teachers called us, the “Malcon Pod”.  I hope that you watched and looked at the way Mr. Reed, Mr. Statler, Mr. Hale, Mr. Steele, Mr. Lord, and myself treated you. I know we were not perfect, but we tried to be examples for the young men.

Boys, I understand how difficult it is to be a teenager. You need to know how important it is to treat women with dignity and respect. I have told you this before, but if you hurt one girl you hurt all of them. Girls talk!

Girls

You are beautiful, smart, funny, talented, driven and deserve to be treated as such. If a boy does not treat you the way you wanted to be treated, you need to be vocal about it. You need to tell him that you need more than what he is offering. Do not change who you are for a boy, or for what you think a boy wants.

You HAVE to ignore the voices in your head that tell you are not pretty enough, fast enough, skinny enough, or popular enough. These voices will destroy you from the inside out.  It is difficult to fight the negative thoughts coming from the outside, let alone the inside. Stay confident. Anytime you need a pep talk or pick-me-up send me an email or stop by my classroom. You are all amazing.

Cold Cereal Day

Life is stressful. Life will get more and more stressful as you face bigger and more life-changing decisions: College, Majors, Spouse, Houses, Graduate School, Career, Kids etc. Despite all of this craziness, my advice is just to stop and enjoy the simple things every once in a while. That was the intent behind the Cold Cereal Day. It was a chance for students and me to take a moment out of this crazy life and enjoy the unbelievable. The satisfaction of scooping a spoonful of cinnamon/sugar milk from the bottom of a finished bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. For a 40 minute block of time on a random December day, we were stress-free. Remember that feeling.

Confidence

There is a slight difference between confidence, cockiness, and arrogance.  Confidence comes from knowing who you are and what your capabilities are. When you know who you are on the inside, it won’t matter what people say or think on the outside.  An example, some of the teachers gave me a hard time because I spent B and C lunch in my room most of the year. However, I teach because of my students, not for other teachers. I knew that there were students who needed a “safe place” to relax, eat, read, chill, listen to music, play chess, play scum, or just talk. I was confident with my decision and did not let others viewpoints bother me.

Your Parents

The single hardest thing to do is to be a parent. It also the most rewarding. I want to ask you to give your parents a break; they are doing the best they can with the skills and abilities that they have. There are not training manuals on how to raise kids, or even how to do it well. The interview project was assigned to help you and your parents get to a place that you probably haven’t been to in a while. A place where the walls came down (even for just ten minutes) and true feelings and emotions were shared. I also wanted you to feel the love that your parents have for you.

Benedict and Beatrice

People change, but the change is far deeper and more authentic when they choose to change themselves.

The Memoir

Most of you shared your soul in this assignment. I know it was hard, but there is joy in doing hard things. I hope you can see that now. I also hope that you can see that who you are now, is because of your past choices and experiences. I also hope that you realize who you will become will be mostly due to the choices and experiences you make and have now.

Writing so Much

A lot of you found your voice this year. I give you all of the credit for finding your voice; I just want to take a little credit for allowing you the freedom to go hunt for it. I briefly explained the power of writing. It’s the simple task of organizing 26 letters into words that have perceived meaning. Sometimes you need to look beyond the message (at the messenger) and other times you need to look passed the messenger (at the message). I am not the best messenger, but my message is pretty clear. I love each of you and want you to have amazing lives.

Authenticity

Humans are smart. Others can see through the fakeness of the situation. Be authentic, people gravitate towards authenticity. Hard workers don’t have to say how hard they work, it shows in what they create.

Help others feel that they exist. 

“If I can live life and know that I have helped everyone feel that they exist, then I have lived the best possible life.” Mr. Campbell (6th period I believe)

Be real. Share your emotions. Trust others. Enjoy life. Say, “Thank You.” Avoid cynicism. Keep in touch.

I love each of you Mr. Campbell