This week, we secondary school teachers, are saying goodbye to another group of students.
We’ll attempt to say something poignant in the final lesson, maybe pose for photographs – then they’ll be gone, walking out into the sunlight, towards the school gates, as they have a thousand times over the last five years.
From the classroom window, we’ll watch them, signing each other’s shirts and laughing as they walk away from their time in compulsory education. One or two may stop and look back, many won’t – change can only really be seen in hindsight.
Behind them is a life lived, and in front, the future. A future where we hope the things we taught, the discussions we’ve had and the example we’ve set will help them find success and happiness – wherever that might lie.
Eighteen years ago that was me – looking back up at the school building, a silhouette against the blue July sky – then turning and walking into the future, not realizing it would lead me back to school.
This makes me think every year – what advice would I give that person now?
What could I say to that young man with a silly haircut that would make things easier?
Here’s where I would start:
Be kind – you are going to meet people who are less fortunate, and just different from yourself. Respect that. Don’t disregard someone just because they don’t fit into what you think, take time to get to know them.
Be patient – great things take a long time and anything that is worth having is going to take time to work towards. Be persistent.
Be confident – you have great potential, don’t take on negative vibes or compare yourself with others.
Be healthy – I know you don’t enjoy doing exercise, but it’s important. So is eating decent food (it took me until my mid-20s to realize this).
Choose who you spend your time with carefully – don’t be afraid to move on if things aren’t working.
Always learn – school is just the start. You will always be learning, and you should always push yourself to learn.
Get involved – try new things even if you don’t think you’ll like them. Stay up late and get up early. Talk to people on the train, ignore social media. Travel as much as you can and enjoy the moment. Life will move so quickly, and the future is going to be fun.
Now turn your back on the school and walk through that gate – the sun’s shining and your friends are waiting.
What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Do you think you’d listen?