08/16/2012 10:03 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

A Letter From a Teacher to Students


Dear Students,

Summer is coming to an end and a new school year is rapidly approaching. Some of your parents are eagerly anticipating sending you back to school so they can regain their sanity (which they lost while constantly having to monitor your location for the last ninety days), while the rest of your parents are fearful of sending you to school where they can't protect you from the many inherent threats that they're certain are present because the media tells them so. Most of you, regardless of whether you're a freshman or senior, are beginning to feel the anxiety and nervousness that comes with a new school year. Many of you believe that this is the time when teachers awake in our caves from a summer slumber to feast once again on the hopes and dreams of youth, which is only true in a few and extreme cases. In order to help make this new year a good one, I have decided to reveal some truths, and dispel many myths that seem to fester in your thoughts, and fears that often occupy your mind. Though I am far removed from the classroom as a high school student, I can say with certainty that, excluding some technological advances, I faced many of the same fears, worries, insecurities and hopes that you do in the present. I will be addressing each grade separately, since each class tends to face different battles, and be consumed with different concerns.

Freshmen, you are young, immature, insecure, awkward, afraid, and definitely overwhelmed ... and, guess what? Everyone else is too, and it only increases with age. In the high school hierarchy, you are at the bottom, but this will only last a year and then you won't be at the bottom again until you start your career or enter college. It's a cycle that everyone has to face, and time and time again. Some of you will desperately try to make friends; some of you will keep to yourselves because you're scared to death, and others will slide right into a new world and routine. All three are fine and, like most, I fell into all three categories at certain points. Some of you will feel ugly and awkward when you see the older students, which is also quite normal. When I was in the eighth grade, I thought my ears were so BIG that I glued them to my head. If I can overcome what at the time seemed to be my darkest hour, you can overcome any insecurity that you may have. It's temporary and all teenagers have some things about themselves that they want to change. Understand that you will face people who are more insecure than you are and, therefore, they will call you names or even belittle you to make themselves feel better. Don't get angry, but feel sorry for them. Be kind to everyone, even to those who aren't kind to you. Instead of trying to be accepted by others, try to accept yourself, which will matter much more later in your life.

As if dealing with all of this isn't enough, how well you do academically your freshmen year will lay the foundation for your next three years. Make a noble effort to do well in your classes. You will thank me your junior year when you are applying to colleges. This year, which will appear to be the worst year of your life, will provide you with much comedy when looking back in retrospect. Did I mention that I glued my ears to my head because I was called "Eddie Munster" and "Dumbo"? On top of that, I had a stuttering problem. Freshmen year's not looking so bad now, is it?

I will address the sophomores and juniors together, because both years tend to be very similar in behavior, attitude and social issues. You are no longer at the bottom of the food chain. Congratulations, you survived and now find yourself in the middle of the hierarchy. First, just because you are a little older, don't mistake that as a reason to treat freshmen the very ways that you, not too long ago, were treated by upper classmen. You're not much wiser or more secure; many of you are still likely in your "awkward" stages, which is perfectly fine. With one or two years under your belt, you now think you know it all. During your freshmen year, you "act" like you know it all; during your sophomore and junior years, you "think" you know it all, and, by your senior year, you realize you don't know it all.

You will probably change friends during your first few years of high school. This will depend on growth, interest, activities and principles. Worry less about changing to fit in and more about embracing who you are and what you like. Again, in a few years, what crowd or group you hung out with in high school will NOT matter. No college or company will care if you were a part of the popular clique. Spend more time trying to find what you like rather than trying to fit in to a group with which you don't identify. Also, like freshmen year, your sophomore and junior years are very important for those of you who plan on attending college. Your first three years will ultimately determine your college choices or lack thereof. Did I mention that, in my junior year, my girlfriend dumped me a week before our Junior Prom?

Now, we move onto our seniors. You are the group that, though they act like they have everything under control, is much more insecure than the freshmen. Why? Because you are about to graduate, enter the real world and uncertainty, and return to the bottom of the food chain once again. Seniors do have a lot of heavy stuff to deal with: college applications, graduation, prom and prom weekend (poor seniors). Many of you are counting down the days to graduation but, what you don't realize is, once you graduate, you will wish you could be back in high school. I'm sorry; it's true. The real world is a rough place at times.

The good news is that students who don't do as well in high school as they should have often do much better in college. The reason is that, in college, YOU or your parents will be paying for school, and you won't have any guidance counselors or teachers holding your hand throughout the year. Some of you will prosper in this new environment and, unfortunately, some of you will hit rock bottom during your first year. It all depends on you. Just know that, if your high school career wasn't as successful as you would have liked, it's neither final nor fatal. You have plenty of options, and it doesn't matter where you start, but where you finish. Lastly, please be kind to the freshmen, sophomores and juniors; you were one not too long ago and, therefore, you know how difficult it can be. Did I mention that, during my senior year, my prom date started dating a college guy a week before the prom and, therefore, took him to prom and not me, like she had promised for the previous two years?

Now I feel compelled to share a few things with all of you in regards to the teachers with whom you will likely spend more time than your family. We are not horrible human beings on power trips who get pleasure out of making your lives a living hell because our lives are missing something. We are not against you; we don't want to see you fail and, in most cases, we would give you blood or a kidney if you needed it. Though it is in your nature to battle all adults and authority (as your kids will do to you), it doesn't mean you can't battle in a productive way. We are here to help you succeed in school and in life, but there will be times when we have bad days (for me, it's when I don't have my coffee or Chapstick) and there will be days when you are carrying a heavy load also. However, rest assured that it is not us against you. You will have teachers you love, teachers you like and teachers you ... you know, but that is an incredible lesson for how the real world works. Sometimes personalities don't mesh, which is common, and that's even more the reason to adapt depending on the environment. Every teacher shouldn't be the same, and the species that survive are the ones who adapt to their changing environments (the environment has never and will never change for us).

I glued my ears to my head. I had a horrible stuttering problem. My mom gave me horrible haircuts (I still love you, Mom). I was rejected by nearly every girl I liked in elementary school, junior high and high school. However, nothing brings a smile to my face faster than to think about those times that, then, I thought were the worst moments of my life. High school is the time and place when you will begin to become the person you will be for the rest of your life, and don't be scared by that or try to fight it... And in case you were wondering, yes, my head finally grew into my ears.