Today is the first day of school for my daughter. She leaves her cocoon of private education, micro classrooms and the classmates she has known since the beginning of her formal education for the world of public school. Yes, it was a big decision for our family, but one made with confidence.
Despite the anxiety that comes with new opportunities and unknown situations, this change is one that we are all looking forward to with great anticipation. We’re confident we have the foundational learning well-seated and now are jumping in to grow in areas our former school could not meet: broader language arts, expanded music and cultural programs and opportunities for expanded social development.
As my “baby” turns the corner from adolescence to the world of pre-teens and blazes her own path in this brave new world, I believe there is no greater advice I can give her than to be her true self. As she seeks to make new friends, demonstrate her knowledge and aptitude, and reveal her compassionate, sensitive self; there is no better counsel than to be authentic.
Her world is about to explode exponentially and I pray we’ve prepared her for it well. With more opportunities come more challenges; I am counting on a solid foundation and a secure home life to guide her through the transition. But as I outline my advice to her, it seemed like pretty good advice to share here, too.
- Be true to yourself. Trust who you are, what you believe in and the goals you have set for yourself. Not everyone else will share them, believe in them or support you. But if you know in your heart that they are your goals, then do not let anyone or anything stand in your way. Not everyone will like you or what you stand for and that’s ok; just stand firm to who you know you are and be true to you. It takes courage to stand alone and be you. Do it!
- Be respectful of others and encourage everyone. You will encounter people who treat you differently, talk differently and are different from you expect. Your first reaction may be to reject them or treat them less kindly than you know you should. You don’t know their story or the reasons why they are the way they are. Respect everyone and give them the same level of encouragement, kindness and support you would want in return. You may be the only hope they ever encounter.
- Ask questions. New schools and new situations will bring lots of unknowns each day. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions. Chances are, someone right next to you has the same question and is afraid to ask it, too! There are great adventures awaiting you in seeking answers to questions and it all begins with the first ask. Don’t ever be afraid to seek out the answers to things you don’t know!
- Be a friend. Being a friend is the best way to make a friend. Smile to the person who looks scared. Introduce yourself to the boy or girl standing alone and is equally afraid. Sit next to the student no one else has sat next to in the cafeteria or media room. The more people you befriend, the more opportunities you create to find the friendships God has planned for your life. Equally, do not forget the friendships you already have; they are precious and must be nurtured and cultivated to continue to grow.
- Take notes and stay organized. In a bigger school with multiple teachers, 25 times more peers and constantly changing classrooms, organization will be key. Good note taking and organizational skills have become more critical than ever! This is the year we will work to keep your backpack, room and desk clean and organized so you can stay focused on the important priorities in your life. Mastering this skill now will prevent a lifetime of distractions and wasted time later!
- Practice. No one woke up in life being great at anything! All masters become masters through hard work and discipline. Whether it is your math assignment, your spelling words or your desire you play first chair in orchestra, all will take the same route: practice, practice, practice! Practice is the pathway to an amazing outcome, no matter what the task or objective. Never take a shortcut when it comes to practice.
- Take care of yourself. Diet, exercise and sleep are critically important to your body. What you eat, the amount of exercise and rest you treat your body to are all precious gifts to your amazing and beautiful body. Taking care of yourself will ensure you are happy, healthy and in the most amazing condition to be your ultimate best. Take no short cuts here, for you are amazing and your body is precious!
- Cultivate your spirituality. Leaving a private, Christian school does not mean we are abandoning our spirituality. Daily devotions and time alone to reflect on your day, your heart and your relationships are important to your spiritual development. We won’t leave your spiritual growth behind as we move to a new curriculum; we will build a new one at home.
- Embrace the unknown. Life is full of uncertainty. Laugh at the confusion and trust that things will work out as they are supposed to. If you have done your work, then trust that it is all happening just as it should. Enjoy life, live in the moment and let it all just happen. After all, that’s why Mom and Dad are here. We will guide you, love you and together, we will all end up exactly where we need to…together.
Yes, whether it is a new school, a new job or a move halfway around the world, I wish I had the benefit of (and the wisdom to follow!) good advice like this years ago. For me, more than anything else, being authentic drives all others. Be true to who you are and it will drive so many of these other success enablers that can lead you to an outrageously wonderful life.
Whether in fifth grade, or for your fiftieth year of loving what you do, I wish you all the joys that come with living a blessed, outrageous life!