The day before Winter break. The day before Spring Break. The day of Prom. The last day of school. When difficulty hits a class. When there are struggles.
So, today, although we have classes until noon, I've had my three classes and three speeches. Here is a copy of some of what I told them.
1) Sometimes the only choice you can make in a night is to take the first drink or not.
When you get on a slide, once you're moving you're not stopping. When you drive on a muddy rode and start to skid, you just hope the car comes to a stop in a good place and not in the ditch.
When you choose to take that first sip, you do not know nor do you understand what you are saying yes too.
You may be saying "Yes, I'm going to kill my best friend tonight," or "Yes, I'm going to be raped tonight" or "Yes, I'm going to die tonight." You do not know what you are saying yes to.
I hear so many people complain about the war in Iraq. Many more teenagers die from drunk driving than died in Iraq last year. That is the waste.
You have one choice. One choice that you must make. One choice to decide.
The choice to stay away from alcohol and drugs will make sure that you can stay up till dawn and have fun with your friends and not be stuck in an emergency room on what is supposed to be one of the best nights of your life.2) Sometimes your only choice may be to fix your own drink or not.
There are many people who never choose to drink but receive a spiked drink from "a friend" or "a date."
Since the beginning of time when cavemen whacked cavewomen on the head so they could drag them in the cave, people have tried to exert influence over other people to take advantage of them.
We laugh about the caveman but it is not funny when you lose your virginity through no choice of your own. This is the worst form of robbery and thievery that has ever existed.
Under no circumstances should anyone let another person fix them a drink. Period. End of story.
Choose to be wise and protect your decision to stay away from alcohol. There are people out there who are going to drink who think it would be funny to trick you in to drinking. Then, you'll drink to forget the embarrassment of your first night drinking and who knows where that road will lead.
3) There are some things you can't take back.
There was a guy I knew in college who chose to take that first drink. He was "elevator surfing" at his college spring break and bashed his head in. Now, he's thirty six and sits in a nursing home. He didn't graduate from college. He never got married. He didn't have children. He can't even feed himself. He stares blankly into space. He can't go back and refuse that first drink.
After a test is graded, sometimes a teacher may let you have a retest. But in life, there are things that you cannot get back. Your virginity. Your innocence. A life that is gone. It's not worth it.
If a person gambles, the rule is "never bet something you can't afford to lose." When you drink you are gambling. Don't bet your life. It is foolish.
You'd never dream of watching a poker game on TV where a person bets their life and if they lose, they are killed right there on TV. We'd never dream of that.
And yet, we encourage and watch people play drinking games and sit back and laugh. It is a poker game where every participant is betting their life. Stupid.
4) You become like your friends.
I love mud fights. There is no such thing as a spectator in a mud fight, however. Yesterday I was in the yard with the kids and they had one. After they finished, they were soaked in mud. I also had it on me. In my hair. On my clothes. On my face.
I never threw mud. No one ever threw it at me. But by being close to the mudfight I got muddy.
You may never drink. You may never do drugs. You may not have premarital sex. But when you are around those who do, it affects you. It affects your reputation. It affects how others view you. It affects what you think about those things and how likely you are to try them in the future.
If your friends start doing things you don't agree with, you can either get new friends or become like them. Get new friends.
5) Popularity isn't worth sacrificing "who you are"
Five years a go, Brittney Spears was every little girls object of worship. Brittney this and Brittney that. Now, well, the kids tell me she's a joke.
What did being the most popular girl in America get her? Nothing permanent. You can never have enough shoes. Enough clothes. Enough A's to fill the hole in your heart. These things are passing.
Many of those who were popular in my class in high school are now the joke. (Some aren't.) There is more to life than being popular.
6) Don't believe the lie that this is the greatest night of your life.
I've had many "greatest nights" and most of them happened by accident and didn't coincide with some great event. If you build it up to be something it is not, then when you wake up in the morning you have nothing to live for.
Yes, it is a great night! Yes, it is going to be fun! But Life goes on tomorrow. So have fun tonight but don't do things that you'll regret the rest of your life.
Prom night isn't the night to do something you'd never do any other night. Prom is perfect without sex, without drinking. Just being with your friends and laughing and having a good time.
Prom night can turn into the worst night of your life if you gamble with something you can't afford to lose...your life, your virginity, and that of your friends. It is not worth it.
7) When you have questions ask someone who cares about you.
This morning I read in Reader's Digest about kids who are struggling with things and go on the Internet to figure out what to do about them.
I thought of "Rhonetta Johnson."
"Rhonetta" was a girl that was on one of the tryout episodes of "American Idol." She talked a big talk. You would have thought she was an Aretha of Beyonce. But she got in the room and she choked. She whispered her song and giggled and couldn't hardly get a word out. When Paula Abdul asked her that she learn her song next time, she left in a huff.
When she left Rhonetta began talking "trash." Every other word was a "Bleep" and she was talking about how she would make Paula Abdul become a no name know nothing. It was embarrassing. She talked a big game but she didnt' know much.
The Internet is full of them. People who want to tell you that if you cut yourself or if you throw up or if you have sex or get a certain score on a video game or whatever that you'll feel better about yourself. These are lies.
I believe that nothing can fill the God sized hole in your heart but God and He shows us that there is a plan and a purpose for our lives.
If you have a question, I care about you and love you as do many other teachers here. Please ask us when you have struggles. You know who we are and that we care. When you go to a strange Internet website it would be like me going and asking Rhonetta to tell me how to sing!
None of these destructive behaviors are going to make you happy. That is why meth and drug addictions are so dangerous...the only answer is to do it again...and again...and again.
Doing drugs is like having that Alien that lived inside Sigourney Weaver in the last Alien movie. (Alien 3 I think) You may think you can coexist but one day that Alien is going to hideously burst out, take over your life, and make a bloody mess. That is what drugs do to you.
To conclude, I asked them to bow their heads and I prayed for them. I know that is something that cannot be done in most classrooms and it saddens me. I always preface my thoughts with "I believe." They need to know that a whole part of me is a spiritual side that cannot be divorced from my intellectual or physical. It is important for students to know that there are beliefs worth living for. I think those that tend to force it upon others have ruined it for a lot of good people. I focus on trying to live it but sometimes I need to say it.
I pray that all of my students make wise choices. Unfortunately I know that some will not. I pray that they will all make it back in one piece.
I also know that I will sleep better and be able to live with myself because I gave my "teacher speech."
So what if they roll their eyes. So what if they groan. So what if they make fun of me.
Don't think you have to pray or talk about God to give them "the speech" either. Kids know you love them whether you can talk about those things or not. Kids know what you believe by how you act.
What is important is that some adults in these kids lives have got to stand up and speak out for the truth and what's right amidst a generation of kids hearing lies on TV in magazines and from their peers.
Sometimes, the teacher's gotta preach.