Five students are finishing their final on this cool Monday morning, and I’ve already taken down all the posters and curtains, collected the books and graded my final coursework for the quarter. Nothing left for this teacher to do but post this year’s end-of-year letter, finishing nine hilarious months with a truly unique group of students. I will miss them, very much.
3 June 2015
“We shall not cease from exploration.”
My dear students,
On this fine June day, I am delighted to wish you a very happy Last Day of School. There is still plenty to do, of course; you won’t be having a homework bonfire at the beach tonight, like I did in high school. But it’s the last day for us, this group of people with whom you’ve shared a few good stories, deep conversations, and the tribulations of essay-writing throughout the year. I can think of no more fitting way to end our time together than this, sitting out in the sun and talking about books.
This is my ninth Last Day as a teacher, and something like the thousandth overall. And while the days and lessons blend together now, each class stands out for something. Some groups were wild and intractable, years that I held my breath and kept teaching my 150 students until they poured out of the building one day. Other classes were warm and genial, deeply loving each other, if not the homework I assigned. Your class, both wild and genial, is a class of adventurers.
Your journeys have taken you far, both geographically and intellectually. Since this is BFA, of course I see the adventures outside of the class as well, as you build playgrounds in Greece, take sudden trips to Malta and spend a few days “in the French woods.” Yet in the classroom I see your exploratory nature just as clearly. You are the students who diligently read nearly every page of the books I assigned, even The Scarlet Letter, afraid you’d miss something if you didn’t. Your thesis statements are bold and dramatic, reaching for risky and new ideas instead of settling for the easy ones on the surface. You write better discussion questions than I do, often, and have sorted through the controversies of the year—Is Gatsby a good person? Should George have killed Lennie? What on earth happened with Oskar’s grandparents?—with cordial grace and honor. You’re not always right, but you’re willing to stretch, risking a wrong answer in order to learn. I love this about each of you.
At seventeen, my expectations for the future were modestly interesting, but the reality of the last thirteen years of my life has been far richer and deeper than any of my expectations. There were tamer paths to take, ones that might have kept me in Seattle, with a good job as a public school teacher and friends I’ve known for ages. But I said yes to a journey, reading every page of this new chapter. This spirit of exploration can take you far, in learning and in life, but it comes with a warning. With the love and strength of Christ as your foundation, I’m confident that your adventures will take you beyond where you can imagine now. Just know that not all risks are worth taking, and not all adventures are worth having. To be a proper explorer means using your heart and your mind, and listening to Christ with both. From there, you can expect challenge, like this year of Honors English, but also growth and joy and love.
This is the end of a chapter of BFA for me, but not for you. Soon enough you’ll be back here, learning again, reaching for new heights. Keep asking hard questions, writing tricky essays, having great conversations. I may make it back here to see you graduate, but if I don’t, know that I’m proud of each of you, for the journeys you’ve already taken and the people that Christ has created you to be.
Peace in Christ,