Senior Send-Off: Advice from Ms. Kauffman

Dear Seniors,
Well, you made it, didn’t you? You’ve arrived at that point in the semester where there are only a few weeks to go, your Dual Enrollment classes are already over, you’re wrapping up the few assignments you have left, and then you’re done. “I can’t wait to get out of here,” you say at the T.A. Desk. “I can’t wait for college because I don’t have to do as much,” you say idly when you should be in study hall. “I’m going to be free,” you say between passing periods. You count down the days, think to yourself or say to your teacher, even, “I only have be in this room eleven more times.” (I mean, none of you have said something like that
to your teacher.) So what can I tell you that no one hasn’t already said to you? What can I tell the 2017 Senior Class of Tri-City College Prep High School that no one else has said before? Here’s the truth of it: nothing.
My friends, you have reached the point in your school career where you have heard enough advice to last you a lifetime. When an interviewer asked Flannery O’Connor where she got all of the ideas for her numerous and voluminous stories, she said that if you have lived past the age of twelve, you have enough stories to fuel a lifetime of writing. Now, not all of you are going to be writers, but O’Connor had the sage retrospect to look back on her life and to be able to recognize that even as a child not paying attention to the world around her, her life was rife with other people’s stories. Her family members had lifetimes before her rich with experiences, disappointments, encouragements, and observations. Her teachers surrounded her with experience, advice, told her what pitfalls to watch out for, which actions in behavior would be unacceptable to a world in front of her, told her which thoughts would take her far, pushed her, encouraged her.
It’s up to you, now, to listen to the advice of your family members and teachers, those of us who have trained you and prepared you, who have told you of regrets and best memories alike, who have recommended and guided, and now you step out on your own. With these stories and narratives of others pushing you forward, it’s time for you to write your own story.
We know you’re not going to listen to all of our advice: you’re going to jump into that harsh world on your own, navigate in it independently, find things out for yourself. Don’t be surprised when it’s different than you thought it would be.
You might fail a college class, or take a job that isn’t what you expected. You might change your major, or go down a path that leads to a completely different career than you planned. It’s okay to make
mistakes, and indeed the best stories are full of them –but the best stories are full of brave chances, too.
When people ask me why I like to teach English, I tell them that English is a Humanities class, and the Humanities study what it means to be human. Everyone has a story to tell that is different
than someone else’s story. You have different backgrounds, different ambitions, different observations, and you’ll make choices different from everyone else. There is no one who can write your
story for you. So take chances. Dream big. Make mistakes. Make observations. Experience things. Give as much as you can to other people. Contribute something to the world we live in whether its charity or art or music or pro bono work. Write your story.
One day you’ll be in a position to share your
story with someone else. Make sure it’s a great one
to tell.
~Kristen Kauffman