Letter to Graduating Seniors

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I was asked by a local publication to share my best wishes & advice for the current graduating class of 2020. This was my first narrative after my grandmother’s passing in May. I am so thankful that Brian Carlton asked me to do this because I lacked the motivation to write anything after her death.

I’m grateful to a few friends who were willing to share their thoughts & ideas with me as I went through this writing process. Thanks for being my tribe 💕. I hope y’all enjoy the letter to graduating seniors.

Senior Class of 2020,

Congratulations! What an amazing achievement you have just reached in life! I am so very happy for each and everyone of you! As a retired teacher, and now a local business owner, I know how hard each of you has worked in order to get to this day! Your greater community is so very proud of you.

So what happens next in your educational and life journey? The world today gives us a perception that times are too uncertain. Please know that your decisions are all within your circle of control. You have the ability to control your words, thoughts, actions, choices, behaviors, & efforts. I do realize these historic and unprecedented times are not how you envisioned your graduation. But, now is the time to celebrate your achievements, cherish your school memories, and look ahead to the future. Dig deep within yourself and find that inner strength to focus on potential opportunities for your future.

Speaking of new opportunities, some of you might be thinking of heading off to a university, community college, or possibly even in the “world of work”. No matter what path you take in the next few years, you will continue to evolve, change and grow as a young adult. Learning will be a constant in life.

As you transition into the next phase of life, here are a few reflective life learning experiences that I have found to be helpful in my journey. I hope you can use these 7 tips as insight & encouragement for your future endeavors.

1. Treasure those in your life. Love your “tribe of family & friends” fiercely. Nothing is guaranteed or promised in this world. So that being said, stay connected, call home! Visit home as much as you possibly can do it. Your family is a very important part of your journey & they will be your biggest advocate.

2. Keep life simple. Experiences & memories in life are the things you will always have, possessions will not last.

3. Dream BIG! Set goals for yourself. Life is not a sprint, it is a journey to be enjoyed & cherished. When you set a goal, understand it may take years to fully achieve, & be patient with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

4. Show kindness to yourself & others. Let this one sink in for a minute. Life is not a perfect process. We all learn from success and failure. Be gracious & extend kindness in all things you do. Remember to say “thank you”, “yes ma’am”,& “no sir”. A kind heart goes a long way in our world.

5. Connections in life are important. The people you meet & encounter in life will sometimes circle back into your life via work, church, friends, or even into family circles. Use compassion, grace & understanding in difficult situations.

6. Find and develop your skills & talents. What are you passionate about? As you grow and change, your interests and inspiration can create new opportunities. Be flexible. Be willing to adapt to new ideas and change.

7. Last, but not least, keep your body strong … mentally and physically. Let’s elaborate. Reading as an adult helps your mental capabilities, increases vocabulary skill set, & can improve memory. Reading for information is a powerful tool. Become an independent thinker, read and form your own opinions about news, politics and the world around us. And remember, it is ok to disconnect from your devices and unwind at the end of the day. Reflection is an excellent way to disconnect from the daily grind and evaluate what is next. In those quiet moments (in the car, spiritual time,journaling, etc) allows you to evaluate your goals, make decisions about goals…is this the path I still wish to take? do I need to adapt my goals, what did I learn along the way? In essence, you can learn from your success & mistakes.

And finally, be physically active…get outside when you can, enjoy the natural world around you, it is good for your overall health.

My final parting wish to you today, “may you be richly blessed in your journey ahead”. Your greater community is excited to see how your success will continue to add to our future growth in the years ahead.

Sincerely,

Angela Searcy

Co-owner of Wilkes County Hardware

Advice for my sister…

My sister called me the other day, & she had news to share with me. Her announcement was that she could not be a teacher. I giggled. We both laughed for a minute and I told her that she was a great nurse and I’m glad she chose that as her career path.

From the phone conversation, I could tell she was struggling with this newly founded homeschooling situation that so many parents have been thrusted into as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic.

As we continued to talk, I just simply let her share her story. By the way, she has 3 kids at home, all under the age of 15. The problem was obvious… all 3 kiddos were not feeling it, & lacked a bit of motivation. My sister was getting an influx of information from 10 different teachers… 😳😬 I really felt for her and I knew she was still trying to do the impossible- teach her kiddos, be mom, and work!!!!

In the last few days, I have really been thinking about all this change for so many parents and the homeschooling struggles playing out in the social media world. Some of the posts are quite funny, people are searching for what to do, & even the Today show did a feature on this topic this week!!!

So how we “teachers” do it in the classroom and make it all work???? Here is a working list for you today from a teaching veteran… 25 plus years of experience… turned Hardware wife. I hope this is helpful for someone out there as well as my sister… Love ya sister… hope this brings a glimmer of hope & insight to you today.

1. Keep a routine going for each day – begin & end at the same time-their school day is based on routine and specific schedules your kiddos are accustomed to

2. Allow for Brain Breaks, games, outside time. Simple yoga or meditation time can be used as well and many schools are using it now

3. When you are teaching new concepts, make connections to things they already know – build upon their prior knowledge is crucial to learning

4. Teach for 10 minutes & review for 2 minutes – we teachers like to call this concept “chunking”. Remember the attention span of a kiddo is 8-12 minutes (depends on age and gender) Adult attention span can be 15-20 minutes… well enough said

5. This one is my favorite and my students loved this one as a teacher-Read together- read aloud novels/chapter books… use your voice to project different characters, mood / tone of the story… stop and ask questions for comprehension along the way, discuss new vocabulary, integrate other subjects from story- science, math etc when you can!!!

6. Rome wasn’t build in a day… Adapt when things don’t work out like you expected. It will be ok if you don’t accomplish everything you need to in one day.

7. Overplan!!! & Communicate with your child’s teachers. Set your daily expectations out there to your kiddos, let them know what they will be learning/doing. This will help them to take some ownership of their own learning.

8. Integrate technology- use online resources, games, videos( music/movie clips), Pinterest, blogs etc. Honestly, this one is time consuming but well worth it… dig deep for your kiddos and you will reap rich rewards!!! (If your students are working with online learning from their school districts, use these as a supplement to learning)

9. Don’t forget to use YouTube- great wealth of resources!!!!

10. Start small!!! Begin with a few hours of learning when you tackle this undertaking, and work way up to longer instructional time

11. Share resources and information/inspiration with others!!! I always hated to work with other teachers who never wanted to share resources or ideas. The more help/ resources you have the better off you will be!!!

12. Have your kiddos to reflect on their learning… this could be a daily discussion at the end of the day, journal writing, checklist, etc. This will put ownership of learning back on them and what they need to do differently tomorrow. Checks for understanding of content should be frequent.., like daily

13. Don’t worry… your kids will know you are not an academic expert. At the beginning of each year, I always told my students we will learn & ask questions together… learning never stops for anyone!!! Set this expectation early!!! We are learning together…

14. Try Create & Make projects – hands on projects or creative projects are great for kiddos

15. When a task is hard for your kiddo, don’t forget this… “you are not there yet” – the power of “yet” is not failure… you are still working on it… ie., learning in progress. Grant your child a little bit of grace to keep learning and growing.

So here it is sister… my advice to you as you navigate this new chapter in homeschooling with your kiddos. I hope this will help you 😉 and everyone else out there who might possibly need this.