To My Students...

Dear Students,

Can you believe school starts in two weeks? (I can hear your weeping and wailing cheers of excitement from here.) You guys, I know we've already said our goodbyes and all that mushy stuff, but now that school is rolling back around it's hitting me all over again that I'm really not going to be teaching you this year. Some of you are sad with me. Some of you couldn't care less. (It's okay; I'm not taking it personally. =) Some of you are indifferent about it. But however you feel about it, I'm really sad. 

I will miss laughing over the most ridiculous things... usually a dumb sentence in your grammar book but more often than not one of my stories that mysteriously inserted itself into the lesson. Thanks for letting me live out my dream of being a stand-up comedian for three minutes at a time. I'll miss watching you guys FINALLY understand something we've gone over a million times (adverbs, anyone?). I'll miss singing with you in chapel, listening to your prayer requests in homeroom, and acting out literature stories. I'll miss having class on the front steps of teen church. I'll miss hearing about your drama "social activities," joking about all the dating couples, and running into you at Target. (Actually, there's a solid chance that that will still happen.) 

I'll miss watching you struggle and then come out on top a little older and a little wiser. I'll miss choric speaking practice and clapping in absolute delight when you finish a section. I'll miss our pizza days, pep rallies, basketball games, and having you beg to skip P.E. help take down bulletin boards. (I know that game.) I'll miss going outside and watching during P.E. or bringing popsicles when it was so miserably hot. I'll miss Christmas parties, Charlie Brown specials, green Rice Krispie treats, and valentine cookies. (Well, you'll miss them, won't you?) I'll miss singing the Preposition Song (and various Disney arrangements), our library trips, and dress-up book reports. I'll miss those rare but special moments when a lesson would magically turn into an opportunity to teach you more about Jesus and how, through many weeks and months, the Lord was able to speak to your hearts and I was, in some small way, a part of that. 

I never THOUGHT I'd miss telling you to stop talking a million times, pausing the music in study hall to get you to get back to work every day, walking through the junkyard locker hallway, especially between classes, going back over the same concept 237 times (adverbs, anyone?), giving the same homework lecture every class period, picking up eraser pieces from my floor, sweeping my floor a million times a week (to no avail), yelling at you to shut the door when it's 25 degrees outside, grading your research papers, forbidding snacks in my room, listening to the screaming that somehow always accompanied the time spent changing for P.E., or reminding whoever it was to PLEASE finish cleaning the lunchroom and go to class.... but in their own ways I'll miss all of those things. Because if I'm not doing them, then someone else is and I'm not there with you, even for the less-than-awesome moments. 

I want you guys to know that the years I was able to teach you were a gift to me. They certainly weren't perfect... and neither was I. There were many moments of joy, fun, laughter... and many of confusion, discouragement, and sheer frustration. But through it all, I hope I taught you much more than grammar (although I would love nothing more than for everyone one of you to be able to name the parts of speech at any given moment for the rest of your lives.) I hope that I made it clear to you that serving God doesn't have to be boring (I mean, call English class what you want but I think we can safely say it was never boring. Well.... maybe a couple units. I'm no magician! =) But living for God, whether it's in a ministry position or not, can be exciting, fulfilling, and...dare I say... fun; certainly it doesn't have to be a life of being enslaved to a list of rules. You don't have to be a Puritan missionary to live for God... and you don't have to choose a wild extreme in the other direction. Going to church, doing right, and living for the Lord don't just bring blessings in your life... they guarantee them. Sure, things will be hard, but not nearly as hard as those who don't live with the hope of Jesus Christ!

I hope I've taught you that there is much more to life than the tiny circles we create for ourselves. Through literature, we were able to explore many worlds far beyond our own, and I want you to live your lives that way. Think outside of yourself and your interests and be interested in other people... in their ideas, their feelings, their way of life. It will teach so much, including what NOT to do. The chance to learn and grow as a person increases significantly when you are willing to be interested in others. (Also, it helps if you voluntarily crack open a book now and then. Just a thought!)

Please remember, too, that how you communicate IS important. I know that grammar isn't a spiritual matter, but representing our Savior is. When you talk or write, do it correctly. If someone is distracted by your incorrect word usage or spelling errors, they're not likely to think you'll do a good job as an employee or student... talk about discrediting any chance to talk about the Lord! If you're portraying an image of someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, it's going to be a hard thing to convince another person that you should be telling them about something as important as eternity. Think about it! (I know you've heard this lecture many times, but one more won't hurt.) 

Know that authority... your parents, your teachers, your youth pastor, your pastor.... loves you. I know it doesn't always seem that way. I know it may rarely seem that way. But speaking as one of those people, I can tell you it's true. If your teachers sometimes seem cranky or irritated, it's because we see the vast potential that lives within you. We see that beneath your disinterest in your homework, or attitude, or constant joking, lie talents, abilities, passions, and gifts from God that could turn the world upside down if you would let them. So sometimes we just want to take your face in our hands and say, "Hey! You're a great kid! Stop interrupting the lesson for a second and do your best and watch what happens! You'll be amazed!" (This teacher could possibly be grumpy because there's no more coffee but that's beside the point.) 

Remember that your homework DOES matter, and I promise it's not something we give you just to make you (or ourselves) crazy. It serves a purpose and if you DO your homework on a regular basis you'll be shocked at what magically happens (you'll probably do better on the next quiz. It's a miracle, I know.) Also, I hope you've learned that we WANT to help you. I've been know to tell you that I get a little "testy" when you don't let me know you need help. (Again, not a magician... and neither are your other teachers!) When should you tell them you need help? (I can hear you groaning out the answer now, "BEFORE the quiz/test." Right!) 

Most of all, I hope you've learned that no matter what you choose to do in life- whatever career, college, hobby, whatever- it will be worthwhile if you make Jesus the center of your life. After high school, I doubt you'll remember my Chick-fil-A stories, Disney parodies, or movie quotes (who knows, maybe you will.) You'll probably have forgotten all the clever bulletin board captions that I spent way too much time on. And SOMEHOW I doubt you'll remember the list of verbs that can be both action and linking. But I hope and pray that you will remember that Mrs. McNeese loved you, that God loves you, and that living for Him is SO worth it. It's not the easiest way, but it IS the best way. 

At the end of the year, when I talked about having a baby (someday), one of you said, "You don't need a baby... We are your babies!" And despite the physical impossibility of that statement =) it's true. You're my kids and always will be. I'll be back for your graduations, I'll keep up with you online, I'll dance at your weddings... wait a minute. Too far ahead! (And I don't dance.) After all that I taught you, I can't thank you chuckleheads enough for what you taught ME... patience, understanding, sympathy, love, and far, far more about Justin Bieber and pop culture than I ever, ever wanted to know. Thanks. 

Oh, you crazy kids. You are smart, unique, gifted, bright, sweet (and sometimes terrible.) You've made me laugh, cry, and nearly lose my mind... and I'm grateful for every wild moment. I'm proud of you, praying for you, I'm here if you need me, and I hope you have an absolutely wonderful school year. Do your best, pay attention, and walk in His steps. I love you guys.

Mrs. McNeese

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