If you’ve made it to this blog post, then you now know of my unforgettable story of long-term substituting as a seventh grade math teacher. You know of some of my most memorable situations in class and how I’d often burn some of my students to a crisp. You know I took the stereotype of teachers having apples to a whole new level. You know of some things I’d been keeping from my students through the experience, and how a bunch of 12-year-olds almost broke me.
I want to thank you for keeping up with my substitute saga. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, but I’m sorry to tell you that the fourth and final piece is not for you.
It’s for them.
Yes, the grand finale of “The Substitute Chronicles” is an open letter to my seventh graders. However, if you’re not one of my seventh graders, you might find a little amusement in reading it as well.
So, if you’ve endured my class for over a month and you happen to be reading this (I know most of you will be doing so because you’ve stalked my social media), this one’s for you.
Dear Seventh Graders,
I had no idea that I’d be writing you this letter when I began my time with you, much like I had no idea that you’d make me question my sanity so many times. Yet, here we are well over one month, several disciplinary forms, and four highly anticipated blog posts later.
This is my farewell to you. Before I go, I’d like to tell you what I think of you.
You are the most dramatic human beings I’ve ever encountered. I’ve seen you have all-out wrestling matches over something as simple as borrowing a piece of notebook paper. And while I’m at it, you don’t have to whine about everything; in fact, you’re a lot more pleasant when you don’t.
You’re lazy. No, I will not sharpen your pencil for you, or open your locker, or blatantly give you the answer.
Right now, you think you know everything. You DO NOT know everything. You have so much more to learn–and I don’t just mean in class. You have a lot of life lessons that are going to smack you in the face, just like they smack everyone in the face. No, you don’t know everything. Neither do I.
The truth is, you were absolute vermin sometimes, both to me and to each other. You were still sweet and innocent last year as six graders, and next year, you’ll still be awkward middle schoolers, but you’ll be a lot more laid-back. Right now, you’re kind of nuisances. But that’s OK, it comes with your age and your hormones. I don’t blame you. Much.
I’d also like to say that I forgive you. I forgive you because I was also in the seventh grade once. It was a decade ago, but I remember it. I know how it goes.
I know adults–especially older ones–often tell you to enjoy your youth. They say they wish they could go back to your age–that you need to enjoy these years because they’re the best years of your life.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Seventh grade was–by far–my least favorite year of school. Actually, it was my least favorite year of life. I was extremely insecure and awkward. In fact, I’ve blocked most of it out.
So I get it. Right now, you’re trying to figure yourself out. You want more than anything to be an adult.
You’re under huge pressures–some of the same pressures that adults feel too, but yours are amplified because they are your entire worlds. Even though you won’t admit it, you’re dying to fit in and be liked. You’re dealing with bullying, crushes, and gossip that is all so pivotal that a simple Snapchat could alter your entire social stability.
I promise you. It gets better. Keep moving forward and doing your best. You can have a really good life. You just have to work for it. I know some of you aren’t too fond of work, but it can get you places.
Years from now, you’re going to look back and think, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I was like that.” You’ll see pictures of yourselves and be disgusted with your haircuts. Your clothing styles. Your entire personas. But that’s OK. Everyone does that.
I’d also like to give you a few pieces of advice.
Smile. You don’t have to laugh at every possible moment as some of you do. But smile. I haven’t smiled a lot since you’ve met me, so I haven’t been the best example. You really don’t know what a smile can do for you or someone else.
Explore. You can live in the same county for you’re entire life; it’s perfectly fine if you do. However, you need to experience diversity in places, ideas, and–most importantly–people. It helps you grow.
Be nice to your teachers. You have no idea how much behind-the-scenes work they do. They are not doing it for the money because they aren’t paid well enough for putting up with you. They do it because they genuinely care about you. And deep down–deeeep down–I do too.
If you see me in public, I will not be wearing a lanyard with a name badge. I will probably have a smile on my face. I’ll speak to you. I’ll ask you how it’s going, because I’ll actually want to know. I won’t yell at you, or tell you to sit down, or write a blog post about the encounter for the world to see. You can talk to me. And you can call me Bryson. Drop the “Mr.”
Yes, you made me put up with so much nonsense for over a month, but no matter how snotty I’ve seen you act or how much you’ve tested my patience or how much you’ve made we want to punch something, I can’t help but wish you the best.
Good luck, my seventh graders. A few of you will probably become civilized adults one day. Look me up when that day comes.