The Open Letters: A Note To The Graduate

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The end of April is the beginning of Spring a wonderful time for me as an educator. I really enjoy this time with the school year. Although my position has long since been eliminated. I still get a funny feeling in my stomach — not a bad feeling, but a warm, fuzzy feeling.


It was this time I loved so much as the weather changed, attitudes begin to break and people began to be friendlier. I loved going to work because of the atmosphere knowing that every now and then I could peek out the building and just get a glimpse of sunshine. The atmosphere indoors was equally bright. I love the hopeful expectation that I seemed to breathe in. I loved that everyone was talking about what was going on next year and what their hopes and plans were for the future. The students were- for the first time- taking control of their lives. Although there were always a few that shuddered in fear, cringing at the idea of independence, there were others that planned ahead and were more optimistic about their plans. I loved how I could hear high school seniors talking about their dreams and their successes and their anticipations. Everybody seemed to be talking about what the college life was going to be or what their next move in life was. It was a time when the sound of future was in the air.

I miss it to this day, so much so that I posted my thoughts after a graduation ceremony which I sung at:

Posted to Facebook on June 7th, 2014 @ 1:48m

Well, it is official. I have seen the last graduating class of John Hope College Prep that I interacted with. It was bittersweet, knowing that these were the children I saw as Freshmen and have become young adults. After 22 years, I saw students become teachers and leaders. Students that I taught brought their children back to me for me to teach them. In one room, I saw 6 generations of past students…..Whew! 

Special shout-out to the last of the M.O.R.E. Male Step Team members Jesse Williams

I am so proud of you. As he crossed the stage, I almost broke down. I speak success in everything you do as we ALL go to the next chapter in our lives.

The year before that, I looked at my colleagues during a commencement ceremony and remembered all the investments they made in these students. It was a great day for the students, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of melancholy for the people who saw them grow for four years. It wasn’t just a job for us, it was so much more. With these feelings burning within, I took to write. After holding it for two years, I now share this letter:



I am so pleased to share with you on this special day. You have done the things that were necessary to celebrate this occasion. This is a great day for you and for your family, friends and loved ones. I encourage you to enjoy it to the fullest.
However in the midst of the celebration, I have feelings of pride but not necessarily jubilation. Today, as your teacher I sit here with feelings of sadness. As I watch you walk across the threshold from student to graduate, I ask myself: “Did I teach them enough?”, “Was I patient enough?”, “Did I equip them with all the tools that they needed?”. Long after today, I will be going about my daily business and your face will come across my mind. I will hear a name that sounds like yours or be sitting in traffic and see someone that looks like you and I may have to hold back tears and wonder if you are okay. I give you back to your family and thank them for allowing me to borrow you. I am sorry that I became so attached but I feel that I gave you more than education. I gave of myself. I swell with pride the way your father does and shed tears of joy just like your mother because I was part of the village that created the masterpiece we see today.
male-teacher-near-chalkboard-grading-papersMany people will tell you that this is “your day”. And it is. I will never be able to tell you that. Every time I stood before you in a classroom and prepared a lesson that would get you to the next level…it was your day. for however long you were my student, every day I woke up and came to work, it was your day. When I sat at my desk and graded your work with precision (and sometimes mercy), it was your day. When I stayed late and came late, changed my plans and listened to your side of the story. That was not about me. That was about you. Enjoy your friends and family, revel in the day and take pride in your accomplishment. However, as far as I am concerned, every day was your day.
Please be warned, just because you won’t see me every day, don’t think that you are through with me. Even though you have crossed over to the next level, I still have high expectations of you. I will no longer be able to make you put on your I.D., but I will demand that you be able to identify yourself as a leader and not a follower. I can’t tell you to wear your uniform anymore, but I will always expect that whether you are going to a party of a press conference, you always be properly dressed for the occasion. No more can I tell you to go to class and get out of the hall, but in life, I will expect you to always be in your proper place as a leader, an employee, and as a man or woman of excellence. I was hard on you sometimes. It wasn’t to be mean; it was because the world isn’t an easy place to live in sometimes.
bamtoysYou needed structure, self-respect, punctuality and a sense of responsibility. I expect you to use these tools to separate you from the slackers out there. I expect to sit in a chair and see you running government, I expect to see Sports Center highlights with your name emblazoned across the screen. I expect to read your name on the cover of books and the pages of magazines. I demand that your image be one that adorns posters, billboards, commercials and media in a positive way. I expect to see your name scroll by in the credits of movies and television shows, not as an extra of a stand- in, but as director, producer, consultant and star. You have too much in you to let it go to waste.
I have invested in you and usually never get to see the return on that investment. I must trust that I have deposited enough to cause you to prosper. Your parents provided me with raw materials, I sculpted it, they supported it and now we both behold the masterpiece that is you. I am proud, not for my work, but for your accomplishment. Go forth! Please remember, you may never see me again, but I will be cheering from the sideline. Enjoy our day……You are my Champion!
Your Teacher

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