Being a Language Arts instructor, I love reading aloud impactful sections of literature to my kids, and there is absolutely nothing that beats reading the climax of the Outsiders. You can hear a pin drop in the room. Over 80 percent of the kids already know the outcome of the scene by that point. The secret that Johnny dies always gets spread by three or four spoilers before we get to that section, but it never matters. Even I get caught up in the moment, and I have read the book for 12 years! This year was especially memorable for me as I actually broke down to tears first hour as I uttered Johnny’s final words to Pony, “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” It was powerful. Every kid in that room felt the pain of losing a loved one, and as I looked around the room, I watched even some of my toughest boys wipe aching tears of pain from their eyes. If you have never seen the movie based on the novel, take time to see this in action below.
Johnny’s last words, although completely fictional, speak so much truth about life. To stay gold means to stay pure. Stay innocent. Don’t worry about what others think of you. Just be yourself. In the midst of a world of followers, these kids need to hear that message that celebrates their uniqueness. Proverbs 1: 15 states, “My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths.” At the closing of that chapter, we always park on incidents in our lives where we have struggled to stay gold. Some of the bolder kids will even mention times in their lives when they have learned that lesson the hard way, doing something they are now ashamed of because of peer pressure. Those last words from Johnny always spark fruitful discussion, and now, tomorrow to be exact, I have the chance to be a Johnny. On the last day of school, every teacher has the power to inject a life lesson or truth before their students leave. What legacy will you leave?
Think about that. The worst mistake you can do on the last day of school is take this moment for granted. Do you really want some mindless animated video to be your students’ last impression of you? Don’t you crave one final moment where you can speak truth into their hearts? The final words you speak to these kids have the possibility of sticking with them forever. I have to give a shout out to my old high school psychology/history teacher, Mr. Basket, on this one. His last words over half my lifetime ago still live inside me today. On the last day of school, Mr. Basket wished me and the rest of my classmates a successful failure in life. We squirmed in our seats looking around at each other, laughing a whispering about why he would want us to fail in life. He let the thought confuse us, and then with a smile on his face, he explained that a successful failure was a failure that we learned from. A failure that makes you a better person in the end. A failure that may rock your world but does so in a productive way.
That message has echoed in my soul for years. I have whispered those words of truth to so many kids over the years. Nearly every time they get it. Tomorrow, I get to be a Mr. Basket. We all get to be a Mr. Basket! What truth do your kids need to hear? Whatever it may be, speak it to them. Let it resonate in their young hearts. You will always have the kids that don’t receive it. That is a given. Some may even mock your heartfelt message, but if you pick the right age-appropriate message, it could change a life. Forever. Below you will find some suggestions, and each one is supported by scripture. Pay heed though. Serious ramifications could be in store for you if you recite it to your class! Keep the scripture quiet in your heart, but let the power of the message reign supreme.
Truth number one: “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16: 14). Who can argue with this one? In a world where everything says it is okay to repay evil for evil, let the kids know that love is the way to respond to all. Tell them a story that epitomizes love. Make it memorable.
Truth number two: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 32). So many kids hold grudges, but the bigger person is the one who humbles himself or herself. The bigger person is the one who forgives. Tell a story about forgiveness.
Truth number three: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4: 8). Be positive in life. When life hands you a lemon, make some lemonade. Tell a story that shows how positive people make things happen in life.
I wish I could sit here and come up with ten more, but if I don’t leave my computer, my first hour class will be without a teacher here in an hour! Today’s message is simple: let those last words be impactful. Don’t take them for granted. Throwing in the towel is not an option for the Christian teacher. Pray about this. Ask God for guidance on what your students need to hear. And just listen. His voice, His gentle nudging toward where He needs you to go will be heard.
Amen! Great words, Clint.