Ever seen that Geico ad with Europe singing the Final Countdown? I was a little young to listen to them in the 1980’s when they were a hit, but I definitely went through my hair band phase in high school and college. (Never could bang my head like those guys since I’ve always sported short hair. Now that I’m bald, it is just a lost cause.) What? You’ve never seen it? Alright, take a quick break to view it below. Best 40 seconds of your day. Guaranteed.
Alright, so how many of you are contemplating hiring Europe to come to your school and sing that song in your classroom during the last week of school? I wonder what they would charge? Would the smoke and pyrotechnics be distracting during finals? Would my principal sign off on it? (Come on, Dr. G., you know it would be worth it!) I bet you’ve run across a few people who have the final countdown going on. Heck, I have to admit that I start getting a little giddy too. Like a kid on Christmas morning!
But through that giddiness there is likewise a part of me that weeps. Knowing that these kids are moving on to the next grade level and will never again be a part of my classroom makes the final countdown all too bittersweet. If you’re a Christian teacher that is in this profession for the right reasons, you can relate. We simply love kids! We love making a difference. That is the question I am asking myself right now. With less than two months of school remaining, how can I make a difference?
Way back in my student teaching in the spring of 2003, I was phasing out of teaching and getting ready to graduate. I had time, so I sat down and began writing each kid a thank you note. Each one was individualized, pointing out significances that were unique to them. No more than five or six sentences tops. I figured God gave me the gift of encouragement, the gift of writing. Why not use it to spread joy? I finished the notes in about a week and passed them out on my last day.
The looks on the kids’ faces were priceless. I noticed they were laughing, crying. Many were running around after class sharing their notes with others. And so began a tradition in my classroom that I have kept up for 13 years—minus two years where I chose not to. But do you know what? I felt guilty those years. Yes, it takes time, but it was WORTH it! Seeing a parent four years later at a sandwich shop, one mom said, “You were the teacher that wrote my daughter that note.” Another family invited me to their son and daughter’s graduation parties. Right there in each kid’s scrapbook was my last day note.
Now, let’s be real here. Not every kid is a words of affirmation kid. I will never forget the year I found one of the notes in the trashcan. I still remember his name, but he shall remain anonymous. I remember saying to myself, “Was it even worth my time?” If you can touch a handful of kids, just ONE kid, it is indeed worth it. I’ve seen these notes in binders. Kids have said they have them on their mirror at home. Some kids that connect with me five, ten years later say they still have their last day notes.
Are you on board yet? If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot. Start early. Now is good! Not to make you jealous, but I started last week during the beginning of assessments. And now that the computers crashed not once, not twice, but THRICE, I actually was blessed to be able to finish that last note yesterday after school. 126 of them. You see? I knew God had a plan! If you’re wondering what to write, take note of the following advice:
- Use nicknames in the title if you have any. It makes the kid feel unique, special!
- Point out specific things you remember from that kid. A project they did well on. A kid they stood up for. A game where they performed brilliantly.
- Inside jokes are always fun. Perfect example: I had a kid that loved the rap artist Eminem this year, so I quipped a line from his song in her note.
- Don’t lie. If you have a kid that flunked your class, don’t say, “Amazing effort this year!” Use that as an opportunity to challenge them, and say something like, “I know you will rise to your potential next year.”
- Be positive. Every kid, even the high flyers, deserve a note. End the year with a positive thought that has the possibility of illuminating their spirits.
Here’s a sample anonymous note that I wrote for one of this year’s students if you want something to go by: Dear Joe Student, You are one of the most caring individuals I have ever taught. The words I would pick to describe you would be selfless, diligent, and loving. Joe, I hope you realize that those traits will take you places in life. You don’t have to be a straight A student to succeed. I wish I could put your heart into some others that I taught this year. If that were possible, the world would be a better place. I will always remember you, Joe. Students like you don’t come around too often. I wish you all the best in 8th grade. Stay gold, sir!
I wonder what good old “Joe” will do with that note? He never got above a C in my class, but with the right encouragement he could achieve. He could be somebody. He could use the gifts God blessed him with to make a difference in this world. As the final countdown begins, let us relish the time God gives us to make a difference. Not for your own glory, but for God’s. “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5: 16). Whose life are you going to change this year? Let the final countdown begin.
Less than two months to make a difference.
(You knew it was coming! It is time to embrace your 1980’s hair band side. Did that ad above make you curious about Europe? Would you like to see their hit song in its entirety? I knew you would! The entire song of “The Final Countdown” can be seen below.)