I was flattered that L.J. surreptitiously recorded my farewell speech to Period 3 Honors English 12. I’d just signed a dozen yearbooks and stumbled into the perfect metaphor: a rocket! Our school mascot is a Ritchie the Rocket, so I said something about using high school as a launching pad while soaring to new heights, with rocket power fueling your rise to success. I know that the metaphor was corny, but I had their full attention.
In Period 6, I read Oh, The Places You’ll Go! in its entirety. Not one student glued their eyes to a cell phone. Nobody asked to go to the bathroom while I read in my best teacher voice. You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Dr. Seuss is out of favor these days. But his words fit the expectations of the moment. Something happens to seniors in their last week of school. A sudden realization that This. Is. Final. The fear, the sadness, the excitement. For 23 years, I’ve been saying good-bye to students at the end of the school year. I know my role.
This year, however, we had briefly reversed roles. Seniors wrote and delivered their own motivational speeches. We watched some model orations: a wedding toast, a graduation speech. I provided a graphic organizer, a rubric (below), and a deadline. I got some of their best work all semester.
Maybe that’s why some of their final thank you cards brought tears to my eyes on the last day. I choose to believe that the self-reflection imposed by our final English 12 assignment became internalized, that students rose to the occasion. We tend to think that students are disengaged, but they pay attention to every nuance and they have something to say.
The Class of 2023 has brought back hope and a positive attitude.
A motivational speech will often end with a positive quote. Fueled by Rocket pride, my students will join the high fliers who soar to high heights and be the best of the best! I hope my words will give them a boost. I know theirs have certainly boosted me.