Dear soon-to-be seventh-graders:
By the time you read these words, your summer vacation will have started. Relax. Go to the beach. Watch zombie movies. You’ve earned a break from the grind called school. But just because I’m not officially your teacher anymore doesn’t mean I can’t offer some additional teacherly advice.
Keep reading. For many of you, this is a no-brainer. I often had to compete with a book for your attention, and that’s a problem every teacher would love to have. So I’m not worried about you.
But for those who said, “I hate to read, it’s boring!” take time to think about what interests you and find books, magazines, newspaper articles or Internet sites to feed your interest. I say “feed” because that’s what reading is — food for the brain.
Most of what I know — and taught you — is knowledge gained from reading. In my 12 years of public schooling, I can count the great teachers I had on one hand. My list of the truly great books I’ve read is at least 10 times that number. Getting a great teacher is luck. A great book is simply waiting to be picked up and read.
It’s time to start finding your passions. What do you really like? What are you really good at? When you discover a passion, follow it, because it will give your life depth and meaning. Listen to that little voice in your head, or that feeling in your gut that says, “Hey, I think this is for me.
I first started thinking about becoming a teacher 36 years ago when I was still in college, working at a day camp during my summer break. I discovered I was pretty good with kids. I made them laugh, and they listened to me, at least most of the time. It took a while, but I eventually listened to that voice and made teaching my career.
I also knew, in the back of my mind, that I could write. As a kid, I prayed for essay tests. In 10th-grade biology class, I wasn’t pleased with a test question that read, “Explain photosynthesis.” The only thing worse was trying to solve a word problem in algebra class. But as I read the question again, I started imagining the possibilities.
I decided to write a fairy tale, assigning good and evil characters to the various steps of photosynthesis. I don’t remember the details anymore, but my creative answer, undoubtedly loaded with inaccuracies, must have amused my teacher because I pulled a B on that test, about the best I ever did in any science class.
That experience stuck with me, and here I am, writing for a newspaper, living a passion that had humble beginnings — reading joke books, MAD magazine, newspaper columnists and thinking, “Maybe I could write that well someday, too.”
So, enjoy your summer vacation, boys and girls. I hope you get to take some trips, and that some will be trips of the mind, through the pages of a good book. And if you want to write about it, great, and I hope you’ll share it with me when we’re back at school.
I had fun teaching you this year. See you in the fall.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.