I was asked to speak at our fifth grade promotion. These were the thoughts I tried to stick in their head:
Let’s start with something you already know. A little review: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until my good is better, and my better is best." Every Monday morning, right? The affirmation that starts our week here at Horace Mann. By the time you get to fifth grade, most of you have stopped saying it out loud. You might think that the grown-ups don’t notice. We do. But that’s okay, since the important thing is that you already know those words. To summarize: Always do your best.
Now something new: This book. It was given to me by my father the day that I graduated from college. That was a long time ago. It’s called "Oh, The Places You’ll Go," and it’s by Doctor Seuss. It starts like this: "Congratulations, Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places. You’re off and away." It’s all about a trip this kid, named "you," takes and all the exciting and dangerous things that happen to him along the way. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it, and you should trust me because I’m a teacher.
Speaking of teachers, I’d like to show off for just a moment. I remember when we did the play of "Peter Pan" in Miss Lutz’s class. I got to be Peter Pan. I was the best speller in Ms. Minger’s class. I remember how much Miss Hoff liked my stories. She got me started writing. Ms. Pyle was very strict, but I was glad I wasn’t in Miss Dillon’s class because we all heard that she tied kids to chairs. Miss Stuart let me print out my stories and illustrate them. Mr. Conklin suggested that I read "Diary of Anne Frank." Miss Leonard let me make a movie with all my friends at the end of the year.
Now here’s the crazy part: Way back when I got married, which was still a long time ago, my dad ran into Miss Hoff a few days before the wedding, and he arranged it so that we could all get together and have lunch. And even though I was all grown up and graduated from college and about to move out to California to start my own family, Miss Hoff still remembered me. She told me about the first story I wrote in her class: "The Drunken Snake." She told me that I was a very good student, but my desk was always messy. My second grade teacher remembered me.
It’s what teachers do. It’s what I hope you do: remember. I hope you can remember all the teachers you’ve ever had, and the kids who were in your classes. And all the fun things you did together. And all the things you learned. And while you’re busy doing that, I hope you’ll remember to do your best. "So, be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray ore Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!"