Core scripture: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
Message: Tis about that time. Yearbook signing. Do you remember those days back in the dinosaur age when you were a child? I remember elementary school was just signing my name. Nothing else. Middle school got kinda weird. It became a popularity contest, and dude, if I could just get one of those popular girls to sign, it was a bonus! Total shot of adrenaline to puff up my chest. Then high school came, and the paragraphs started. Long, thought out messages from my friends. I was flipping through it a couple weeks ago laughing at old faces I hadn’t seen in years. We were so young! Confident and full of hope for the future. The world at our fingertips.
It is weird though. As meaningless as those people are to me now, I have kept my yearbooks all these years. The legacies of past friends and teachers sealed forever in what they wrote. My 7th grade social studies teacher? Two words: be good! My math teacher’s comment was fairly generic, but at least she told me it was hard being a new student. My science teacher thanked me for a strong effort. That was it. My English teacher scribbled out two sentences. Not personalized at all. Yeah, my 7th grade teachers were not too profound in their word choice, but I suppose I don’t hold that against them. Still, I wonder. I wonder what I would be thinking today had they put a little more effort into what they said.
(Can I completely deviate from my thoughts to laugh at the comments of my classmates of my friends for a second? One dude thanked me for letting me borrow all that paper. I must have been a Boy Scout or something. Always prepared. Todd told me I was his hero. Not sure why. Hold, on … what is this? Kati signed it with a heart! Did she like me, or was she just one of those girls that always signed with a heart? Is she still dreaming about me today, wondering whatever happened to that hottie? But I wasn’t a hottie. I was a dork. That is proven with the fact that in order to fill a page, oh yes, I had to get my mom to sign my yearbook! Heck, she was the one who wrote the most heartfelt comment of anyone. Kinda sad. Alright, back to my theme.)
All this being said, let us lay out a few rules for yearbook signing day. First and foremost, start with a unique positive. Every kid has a positive. Even the annoying class clown can add wit and lighten the mood of others. Even the kid that fired off a pathetic effort below 30 percent may have had good handwriting. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are all God’s masterpiece. God does not make mistakes. Bring up fun, enjoyable memories. Talk about the time the kid gave a great speech or the time she was there for her best friend. Even say something like, “I loved that orange sweatshirt that you wore every day!” It makes that kid feel special. Personalize your comments as much as possible.
That leads me to another piece of advice. Challenge the right kids. We all have underachievers. I am picturing one of the brightest gentlemen in my 2nd hour right now. Handsome and smart. Athletic and strong-willed. He dominates class discussion—and he is pulling a D in my class right now. So sad. So much potential left on the table! I am praying that kid will come to me that last day of school to let me sign his yearbook so I can tell him how much unused potential he has. He can take it. It might even challenge him to do better next fall. Be sure to counter the challenge with a positive such as, “When you right your ship, you are going to seriously fly!” You never know who will blossom down the road because of what one teacher said.
That being said, and I cannot reiterate this last one enough, always encourage. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 charges us, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” They like soccer? Tell them to become the next Messi. Maybe theater is their thing. Tell them you look forward to seeing them win an Oscar someday. If the kid writes Batman comics in his spare time, tell him to remember you with his money when he becomes a famous author someday. I am still waiting for that one to come true. What I have instead are kids that come back to see me when they become adults. Some have sent me letters or e-mails. I sometimes ask them why I was remembered, and a lot of them simply say you always saw the good in me. Not sure about you, but I value that more than any money they would ever give.
I leave you with some questions: How do you want to be remembered? What advice will you give? How will you challenge someone in an encouraging way? What memories of each kid makes them unique and special? Write that stuff. Just don’t do what I did last year and write five to seven sentences for each kid, giving yourself carpal tunnel for the rest of the summer. (I seriously think my wrist recovered in October!) The special ones might get that, but if the line is long, three to four sentences will suffice. Just don’t be that teacher that writes HAGS. That would be “Have A Good Summer” for the yearbook illiterate. How will you know if your comments meant something? See how many old students come knocking on your door come August. If your room is full, you win the prize.
Best of luck to you all! The light is being seen at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there. Make those comments count. Only one week left to make a difference!
Challenge: Personalize yearbook messages as much as you can. Put some thought into each one. Make each one unique to the child you are writing about.
Song application: “Words” by Hawk Nelson
Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out
Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
Video application: The following video typifies any yearbook signing. What do you notice about the kids? The teachers? Are they just signing names, or are they putting thought into it? Does this show the right or wrong way to sign someone else’s yearbook? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=truN_UDmOu0
Journal/Accountability: Brainstorm positive comments in a journal or with a trusted friend that you can make about every child before yearbook signing day comes. That way when you are signing yearbooks you will not be stuck on what to write!
Quote: “Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin)
Other scripture: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).
“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10)
Prayer: Lord, I pray that my words will be unique and appropriate for each student’s yearbook I sign. May I model for others the kindness and love you showed us through your son Jesus. Amen.