Thursday, June 19, 2008


I’m running out of time with my kids. They know it and I know it. We all deal differently. I’m expecting some to just ignore saying, ‘goodbye’ and walk out of the gate. Some girls have already admitted they will cry. I will try to be somewhere in the middle between weepy and cruel. ‘Goodbyes’ are just plain hard for anyone. But I assume they are easier if you have no regrets and you’ve said all you need to say.
Today was one of my last full class periods with my students. Yesterday I made over 80 servings of banana bread for them. I think they enjoyed it. I told them that we have covered all the information and finished all the books, we’ve persevered through grammar lessons and assignments, but they were about to hear the most important lesson of the year.
I wanted them to know the most important things I have learned thus far. If we aren’t constantly sharing what we know, then what’s the point? I figured we’ve been learning from each other all year, but these were the things I would’ve always regretted not telling them. So, I did.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about where you guys are in your lives and when I was there too. High school wasn’t that long ago. I have happy memories and I have regrets.
I regret that I didn’t work harder. I could’ve gotten better grades. I could’ve focused a little more in class. I also regret that I’ve cheated before (“Oooohhhh!”). I’m not proud of that. And just so you know, your teachers are smart. They know when you cheat. I know when you cheat. How do you feel about it? Do you want to graduate knowing you earned it, or knowing your friends earned it for you?
Don’t make enemies, in school, or anywhere. You never know when you will see these people again.
Appreciate your teachers. Your teachers work very, very hard to help you. Sometimes they don’t feel like anyone notices all of their effort. When I was in high school, I wrote many of my teachers letters, thanking them. I know you guys really appreciate Sokcha and Dararith. What if you walked up to them and said, ‘Hey, I just want to say ‘thank you’ for helping me this year’? They would be so surprised. Do it!
Ok, how many of you are dating? (No hands) Oh, put your hands up! I know some of your girlfriends over there in 9th grade! (The hands slowly went up) I dated one guy in high school. I don’t regret it, but I also don’t think dating in high school is the best choice. How many times have you been ditched by your friends as soon as they get a girlfriend? And more importantly, you should have your own self-confidence before you involve someone else. Do you understand? If you think you are ugly, but you start dating a guy who tells you every day that you are beautiful, you will believe it. But what happens when you break up? Are you still beautiful? Of course you are! But if you didn’t believe it before he started telling you, then you are giving him full control of your self-worth. Know who you are before you give your heart to someone else.
After I graduated high school, I made a list of things that would make the perfect husband (“No way! Ms. Bo, you are crazy!”) No, I did! Here’s why: If you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you ever know when you’ve found it? (One boy “Ms. Bo, can I have that list?”) No! And until I have met the guy who fulfills everything on that list, I’m not wasting my time with him. Never settle! (“Huh?”) The word ‘settle’ is like ‘compromise’. Don’t give up until you’ve found the perfect person. You deserve the best.
Boys, don’t date a girl who is ‘only’ beautiful! Because you know what you’ll have in 40 years? Not much. She’ll have wrinkles, gray hair, a few extra pounds, and you won’t be able to stand her. You need to find a girl who is much more, a girl you will want to be with forever.
What did you want to be when you were kids? (“A swimmer! A dancer! Prime minister!”) Ok, I wanted to be a lifeguard. (“Ha, ha, ha!”) Really! And my ideas have changed since then, but please, please do not pick a job for the money. Pick something you will love doing for the rest of your life. I will never be rich and that is ok with me because I know what I want. Do what you are passionate about, what you were made to do.
Ok, I have a question: True or False? Your life is your fault. (“False. No, true! False, false!” They decided on ‘true’) I agree. One of my favorite teachers in high school told me that, and I’ll never forget it. There are certain situations beyond your control. But how you react is up to you. If you tell me you got a D in Algebra because you have a bad teacher, I won’t believe you. If you tell me you are bored because your friends are boring, make new friends! If you want a great life, make a great life. By the time you are 80 years old, do not call me saying how unhappy you are, because you made all the decisions in your life that got you there! (Lightbulbs. Lightbulbs.)
Let’s say you forget everything I just said, don’t forget this: You could die today. Wake up every morning and remind yourself of that. What if you walked out of those gates today after school and got hit by a moto? Would you be ok with that? (“No!”) Yeah, none of us want to die! But if you did, would you have regrets? Did you start a fight with your mom this morning? Did you ignore a friend today who needed someone to talk to? Did a teacher catch you cheating? Have you been ignoring God? Only you know the answers to all those questions. Remind yourself every day that you are not guaranteed tomorrow. How do you want to be remembered?
So did you get it? Did you capture the most important lesson I’ve ever taught you? I’ve taught you a few things, but you’ve taught me even more. Thank you for being great, great students. I’ll miss you all.”
I gave the same basic talk to all three of my classes today, with a few adjustments here and there based on age and maturity. I could say, “They were probably just listening because they had nothing else to do!” or “They were just glad it wasn’t English class!”, but I know better. They heard me. They were listening because we respect each other. By now, I know their handwriting, how they walk, and how they laugh. I know what makes each of them laugh and what hurts them too. I know when they are just looking at me and not really listening. I also know when they are actually learning from me, and today was one of those days.
I confirmed my ticket home. Indeed, I am leaving on July 1st. That gives me 11 more days to learn a few more lessons, have more laughs with my kids, and a few more cups of sugarcane juice. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of ‘normal’ things, because they really aren’t that normal. I’m spending extra time with Fay. I’m trying, with difficulty, to remember what life is like at home. I suppose I’ll know soon enough.