Kyle Lake, the late former pastor at a church in Waco, TX, passed away suddenly in 2005, and what follows is the conclusion to the last sermon he prepared. It’s one of the most hopeful texts I’ve ever come across, and, at least for me this week, it’s been an antidote of sorts to the situations I cannot control. Here’s what he said:
“Live. And Live Well.
BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply.
Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.
On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.
Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARDER and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done-a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.
If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well.
At the table with friends and family, LAUGH.
If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke.
And if you eat, then SMELL.
The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven.
Taste every ounce of flavor.
Taste every ounce of friendship.
Taste every ounce of Life.
I think that’s great, and I considered just posting that. But as I read and reread it, I couldn’t help but think that I had something to say to teachers. You see I miss the classroom. A lot. I love my job now, but (like most people who’ve worked two jobs they like) I’d love the chance to take the best parts of each and do that each day. You, too? Right.So, I decided to write this (relying heavily on Lake’s text as a model) for teachers.
Teach. And Teach Well.
On the first day of school, try something you’ve never tried before.
Take a RISK. Take a CHANCE. Do something that will stretch you.
Do something crazy. Grade differently. Don’t grade at all. Ask the students what they want to learn. Try out that idea you’ve always wanted to explore—yes, I mean the one you’re not sure will work.
Share those ideas you think are ordinary. They’ll inspire others more than you know.
Give kids a second chance—not just on the first day, but over and over. They’re going to fail (and so are you, and so will I, and it’s ok). And when they fail, let them fail, but teach them that failure is part of their learning and part of your learning. It’s part of mine.
If your students have never experienced success, make their first steps easy.
If your students have experienced nothing but success, push them til they fall on their faces. Their education is incomplete without a chance to learn they can get back up after pushing past their current limits.
In everything you are doing, make the human choice.
Choose to care for a student who is in a tough situation. Choose to help that student be a reader. Choose to help the student who others think doesn’t deserve another chance, another shot, another bit of grace. Choose to ask the tough question, to speak that comment you could pass over, to see the best in others, to extend the benefit of the doubt.
And take care of yourself. You’re teaching students about how hard it is to balance meaningful work with meaningful relationships in a world where 24 hours just don’t seem enough and a time turner seems like a necessity.
Teachers—your job is the hardest job I know of. Your desire to do this the right way and your passion for the young people who walk our halls color our school with contagious optimism.
I’m inspired by your dedication and honored to serve students alongside you.
Thank you for all you do. It is most definitely a gift.
Teachers, I hope you have a wonderful year!