I graduated from Gates-Chili in 1982. I had amazing teachers here who affected my life. Mr. Ron Poness, Ms.Martha MacAdam, Mr. Jack Degan, and Mr. Dan Hickey are a few who bring a smile to my face. These amazing teachers made me want to become a teacher. I decided that standing in front of young adults would be my life’s work because I wanted to awaken dormant curiosities, light-up teenagers’ worlds, and speak to students’ hearts and minds just like they did.
Not only am I a teacher, but I’m a writer as well. My first book was published in April of 2015. I also write for an education column and have a number of projects in various stages of completion. Writing is just a continuation of my teaching. I have a much bigger classroom now, one that transcends the confines of a single building and includes adults as well as students.
With that said, I’d like to address educators for a moment. Don’t ever forget why you do what you do. Continue to make that positive difference every day and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter or that you can be replaced by a machine. I remember my teachers 35 years later because of the way they made me feel, not because of how well they taught their subject matter. When students know you care, you will improve their lives.
And now to my students, for you are in my classroom now.
We’ve heard a lot about success lately and how education provides the building blocks to success, which is true, but first: I want to challenge how you define success. Do you measure success by money? Material possessions? College degrees? Respectable professions?
I don’t. I measure success by the positive impact I make in people’s lives. There is no greater joy. That’s why I teach. That’s why I write. That is my purpose: to improve the world around me, one person at a time because I believe that every word, every life, every dream matters.
Do you know your purpose? Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” You were all born for a reason. Your unique presence affects this world. What kind of impact will you make?
So how do you discover your purpose? First, you need to know who you are now, so you can take the right steps towards who you want to be. There are 5 qualities you need before you can discover your purpose.
One: Love. Do you know what love is? Before you can love another person and receive it properly from others, you need to love yourself first. Choose healthy foods, daily exercise, and intelligent entertainment to nourish your body and mind. By loving yourself, you will begin to see that you are worthy of love, and you won’t accept anything less from others. You have to know what love is in order to give and receive real love.
Two: Kindness. Are you kind to yourself? Stop the self-hate, and take care of yourself; be forgiving of your mistakes. When you learn how to be kind to yourself, you will become a kinder person to others as well and will only accept kindness from others.
Three: Beauty. Do you see the beauty in yourself? When you truly see yourself as beautiful, you will understand that true beauty begins inside a person. Outward appearances fade, especially if that outward beauty covers up inner ugliness. Truly beautiful people radiate beauty from within because they can acknowledge the beauty in everything they see, touch, and experience.
Four: Respect. Do you respect yourself? When you acknowledge that you are worthy of respect just as you are, a world of possibilities open up for you. When you respect yourself, you will readily give respect to others and will attract respect in return.
Five: Honesty. Are you honest with yourself? You can’t attract love, beauty, kindness, and respect into your life if you are not honest with where you actually are first.
Having these qualities does not mean that you put yourself above others; it means that you realize you are lovable, kind, beautiful, and worthy of respect and then are able to give those things freely to others. You stop thinking about “what can I get?” and start thinking about “what can I give?” You are free from society’s definition of success, which will allow you to find your purpose in service towards others—not because you have to, not because you can make a lot of money, but because it’s the reason you were born—to make the world a better place.