Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Open Letter To The PCHS Graduating Class of 2012

Class of 2012,

I am sure some of you realize this, but for those who do not, you guys are the first class that I have seen go from freshmen all the way through to graduation. I have looked forward to seeing you guys graduate since our first year together. You probably do not know this, but those of you who had me in English I that first year made my first year something that I will never forget. The next year, many of you were part of my first attempt at teaching Creative Writing. That semester of short stories and poetry is still the most fun I have had in a classroom. Whether it was in sports, on the stage, as part of the band, or just sitting in my classroom, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you grow and excel in so many ways.

I know things were not always great. There were times when I was hard on you. I am sure some of you got very tired of my lectures and bell ringer prompts about responsibility and work ethic and countless other topics. There were times when I got upset with you to the point that I did not know what to do. There were times when you probably wanted to see me take a long walk and never come back, but I want you to know that the reason I was hard on you, the reason the disappointment cut so deep with me at times, is because I saw so much potential in all of you even as freshmen. Your personalities were so big, and your talent so evident, that as a teacher, I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to make sure I was giving you everything you needed to be successful, because I knew you had the chance if I could only get you to see what you had in front of you. Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, said, “When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody's bothering to tell you anymore, that's a very bad place to be. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care.” I hope you all know that I never gave up on you. I never wanted to stop telling you to get better because I could not stand seeing you achieve less than your absolute best.

This time of year is always bittersweet. It is amazing to see a group of young people achieve a milestone in their lives and knowing that they are getting ready to embark upon a new and exciting chapter, but it is hard knowing that the people who have populated my life for four years are going to be gone when I walk through the doors this August. I have never known the halls of PCHS without you in them, and that will be hard to grasp next year. It already is. There is a song that always gets over-played during this time of year. The song is “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day. The lyrics go like this, “It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right. I hope you had the time of your life.” Here’s the thing; I hope you didn’t have the time of your life. Here are the things that I do hope:

  1. I hope you had a good time, but I hope the time of your life is still to come. High school can be great, but I hope it serves as a launching point for things so much greater. The idea of high school being the best time in your life is kind of depressing for me because you are still so young when you graduate. Having it be the best time gives the illusion that everything else is down hill. I hope you continue to climb.
  2. I hope you learned about yourself while you were here. The teenage years are tough. It is a constant juggling act of expectations. You have expectations from parents, teachers, coaches, and your peers. It is easy to lose track of what your expectations for are for yourself. I hope you found something while you were here that can help guide you through what is yet to come.
  3. I hope you realize that your toughest teachers were not tough on you because they hate you. Teaching is too difficult a job for someone to do if they hate their students. If someone just wanted to harass teenagers, they could get a much easier job and just go heckle kids at the mall on the weekend. The toughest teachers were the ones who saw potential in you that you did not see in yourself, and they drove themselves everyday to try to make you see what they saw. I hope you realize that they will always be available for you if you need them, no matter how many years it has been since you sat in their classroom.
  4. I hope you appreciate what graduating really means for you. It means opportunities. The world is tough, and there are no guarantees, but the more you educate yourself and make yourself an assett to the people around you, the better chance you have at always having the freedom to pursue your dreams and your passion. I hope that when the opportunities in life present themselves, that you are paying attention and give them everything you have.
  5. I hope that anytime you drive by this school, or whatever happens to be sitting here in the future, you can at least smile a little bit knowing that you made an impact here. The people you met while you were here, teachers and classmates, will forever remember you and all that you accomplished while you were here.

Graduation is a lot to take in, and it can be overwhelming, but take the time to stop and reflect on what you have done and what you have learned from it. The road ahead is anything you make it, and I know you will make us all proud.

Nathan Ogle