Thursday, May 21, 2015

Open Letter to My Room 216'er Freshman

Dear former Room 216’er and class of 2019,

You’re about to become a freshman and I just wanted to let you know that I’m still rooting for you.!

I think that the middle school years are the toughest school years to get through, they certainly were for me. High school is really the time where you learn about yourself and what things interest you. High school helps you lay a foundation for the 5-10 years after graduation or at least starts you down the path of your choosing. Choose wisely.

My 10th grade teacher was one of my favorite all-time teachers. She made, yes made, me read George Orwell’s Animal Farm for her class. It changed my life. The study of that book made me realize that even though I was fairly smart, I wasn’t really working all that hard and I needed to change. I don’t remember her name, but I will never forget what she taught me.

I truly believe that grades don’t matter much. I’d much rather have kids focus on learning. It makes me happy when a student wants to learn about something because they’re curious about something. When they want to learn and understand something, not just because it will get them a better grade. It’s not your fault. We, the adults in your life, have trained you to chase the letter. We give you ribbons, clothes, video games, and cash for good grades. Nobody ever gives you recognition for learning something hard and doing your best. It’s a shame. Grades don’t matter, until high school that is. The organizations and institutions that will let you in or keep you out after graduation put a heavy emphasis on the grades you receive, not the person you can become. Don’t coast. Do your best. Everyday, every assignment. Please keep your eye on your grade point, but make sure you’re learning as well. I hope that makes sense.

Worry about the learning and not the letter.

You’re going to be surrounded by kids that are making choices that diminish their spirit or potential over the next four years. Stay away from them. You don’t owe anyone a thing if they are only going to tear you down, hold you back, or put you in a bad place.

Erase the meanness in your life and replace it with kindness.

I mean that with all my heart.

I hope I get a glimpse of what you’ll become over the next four years, but even if I don’t, I want you to know that I think you are terrific and capable of great things. You and your class of 6th graders hold a special place in my heart. I loved being part of your personal story for those ten months. Always know that I believe in you and that you matter.

You have greatness inside you. Find a way to bring it out.

From your 6th grade teacher, all my best.

Eric Johnson - LaSalle Elementary
Twitter: @YourKidsTeacher

Saturday, April 11, 2015

She held his hand...

photo by Melvin E Flickr

The pair spent part of their first day together opening their wedding presents over brunch. Family and friends had gathered to continue wishing them the best that fortune could offer. Rarely sitting next to each other during the hustled morning, as each still tended to their respective family members, she would still catch him staring at her. A glance he would never tire of.

Adjacent chairs helped ease the opening of the stacks of gifts. Care was taken to track the giver, so that the generosity could be appreciated when time permitted. During some brief breaks in the seemingly endless unwrapping, she held his hand...

With an 'oomph', the rented Lincoln Town Car's trunk was successfully closed like a road vacation suitcase. Out of space, the overflow gifts were displaced to the backseat. Goodbyes were said, kisses given, tears were released, and then the pair drove away toward their new life together.

Once on the highway, the miles passed without tally as she held his hand...

Even though they approached the incident at highway cruising speed, the terrible scene unfolded in slow-motion. It wasn't immediately clear what had occurred, but something had gone horribly wrong. Cars were stopped off to both sides of the highway. People were running towards the debris field and beyond. There were no sirens, they were miles away from where anyone could hear them. The groom joined the scene and for the first time in his married existence, he lost track of his wife.

The SUV had rolled in violence multiple times and was far removed from the road from where it once traveled in a predictable straight line. Every rotation of the vehicle resulted in its contents being sprayed without concern for their importance. The vehicle's energy was expended in luggage, papers, and car parts. The scattershot of debris created a macabre path along the highway's slope towards the tree line and came to an abrupt end. The newlywed groom's stomach suddenly felt hollow when he realized that the vehicle's occupants had not been wearing their seat belts.

The male passenger was in distress. Bleeding, immobile, and screaming, he needed to be moved from the spot from where he landed after ejection. The newlywed joined another and they carefully moved him to a more secure spot. The larger crowd gathered their collective strength to lift the vehicle just enough so that the female occupant could be released from the crush of the vehicle. They made a vain attempt to check for life, while the man screamed into the ear of the groom. The newlywed couldn't answer the broken voiced plea "where's my wife, where's my wife?" It was the saddest thing he had ever heard and wouldn't be trumped until his own shriek at the death of his mother years later.

The people trained to deal with these things and their equipment were soon to arrive and there was nothing further for the amateurs to do. The couple got back into their overstuffed car, looked at each other and cried. The scene would remain in his mind's eye and forever remind him how lucky he was. The remainder of the trip was mostly silent as they tried to process the destruction and reconcile the contrast between their happiness and the suddenness of tragedy, as she held his hand...

Sometimes when they're driving, he'll reach over and touch her arm. Just to be sure. Sure that she's there. Sure that she's safe. An assurance to her that he loves her.

Through hospital crash carts, mortgage signings, and their son getting on his first bus, she held his hand...

Through the frightening and the sublime, the marvelous and mundane, through victories and defeats. Through promotions and job losses at the hands of hacks. Through the boring and exhilarating, emergency rooms, and rock concerts. Through everything for 20 years, she's held his hand...

The one who holds me up when I want to fall down. She's held my hand for the past 20 years. To my everything, Happy Anniversary.

With all that I am, I love you Lisa.

Even though this has nothing to do with Kids, Education, or Technology, Thanks for reading, Eric