An Open Letter to MY Students

To the my students:

I know it’s summer and it’s cruel for me to make you read.

But I don’t care. Suck it up. Read it.

I’ve actually been writing this letter since the day I accepted a position at Hershey.

Why?

Because I knew I was going to leave sooner or later. I always do. I want to be everything and do everything. Therefore, I never plant myself in one place for too long. Perhaps it’s bravery, perhaps it's cowardice. But it’s me. And after the 3rd job change before my 25th birthday, I knew it was how it was always going to be.

I was having a lot of fun and we were doing some incredible things in the library. My professional career was growing and expanding and I was speaking all over the country about our awesome library. I had a ton of other projects I was going to do this year. We were going to do some serious rearranging and expand the makerspace. I was going to teach makerspace classes during flex and we were going to have our own MakerFaire. The school administrators were awesome at supporting us and so were the parents. Best of all, the students (you guys) were great.

(Don’t let that go to your head. Only MOST of you were great. The rest of you were just okay.)

Note:  A part of me considered writing this letter as if I was absolutely positive I made the right choice. I considered emphasizing all of the benefits and perks of this new job. I considered repeatedly telling you how “excited I am for this marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”. If I make this new job seem “irresistable”, no one will question why I left, right? No one will think my decision was stupid, right?

But I decided to just be honest. I’m scared to death and I’m not sure I made the right choice.

So why did I leave?

Well...it’s hard to explain (even to myself)

Have you ever seen the show “Let’s Make a Deal”?

At the end of the show, anyone that has won a prize is given the opportunity to go for the “BIG DEAL”. These people have already won hundreds of dollars, electronics, or vacations. Why would they risk losing that - especially since they literally won it just minutes ago? (And if you’ve ever seen Let’s Make a Deal, these people could seriously be trading their car for a box of cereal).

But there is a chance that something bigger and better is hiding behind that curtain. There is a chance that it is a life-changing amount of money.

And yes - there is still the chance that it could be a box of cereal. And there is a chance that this new job is a box of cereal.

But if I didn’t see what was behind the curtain, I would forever ask myself “what if”?

By far this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. And unlike the contestants on “Let’s Make a Deal”, I had more than 30 seconds to think it over (thank heaven). So I thought, talked with family, and talked with friends. One of my friends absolutely refused to give me her advice. No matter how many times or how many different ways I asked, she simply refused. And I hated that. But I get it now. I needed to make the decision on my own. I couldn’t do what most people thought I should do. I would always place the blame on them if things didn’t turn out the way I expected. Another friend asked me “what do you think will you regret more? Leaving or staying?”

Obviously you know my decision.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know what’s behind the “curtain” as I’m just officially starting my new position this week.

And I’m scared.

Terrified actually.

And it’s okay. Everything will be okay.


Somehow.

Someday.

I may not be resolved in my decision for a long time (or ever), but eventually it will be okay.

So why the heck am I telling you this? Shouldn’t I just say, “Hey guys - you were great - read some books - peace” and be on my way? In my last piece of advice to you, I want you to know that it’s going to be okay.

I know two years isn’t a long time, but I hope it was long enough for you to learn how much I genuinely care about you. Teachers aren’t supposed to be “friends” with their students. But I did. I definitely considered some of you friends. I confided in some of you. I cried with some of you. And leaving Hershey means so much more than leaving a library job - it’s leaving a family of teachers and students that I loved (and still do).

So here I am - on this emotional rollercoaster.

P.S. IT’S THE WORST RIDE EVER. Perhaps you’ve ridden it before? Unfortunately, you’ll most definitely have to endure it again. And it will suck. Hard. (I promise)

But I want you to know that it’s going to be okay.

Middle school was one of the worst times in my life. Every memory I have of middle school is like a scene from a horror movie (with Lisa Frank everything, Trapper Keepers, and Hanson posters). You will question your identity. You will be miserable. You will have your heart broken. You will break someone elses heart. You will lose friends. You will make mistakes. You will fail. You will work really hard, and fail again. It will hurt.

They say people never change - that’s crap. People change. Including you.

I can promise you these things:

  1. You are not alone.
  2. You will feel alone.
  3. It will be okay.
  4. It will feel like it will never be okay.

I wish I could be there to support you on your rollercoaster rides. They will be scary. Terrifying. There will be tears.

But you don’t need to swallow your tears and put on a smile (see #1). It’s actually very therapeutic to explain how you’re feeling (hence this four page letter).

And despite the misery that is associated with middle school (and unfortunately, high school too), there is an abundance of joy that can be had if you just let it happen. So, in addition to all of those awful things I listed earlier, there will be instances of beauty. You will find your identity. You will fall in love. You will save someone. You will be the reason for someone’s smile. You will make friends. You will succeed. You will try again, and you will win. You will feel beautiful.

And when those things happen, savor it. Celebrate it. Celebrate the moments of others.

We live in a world flooded with ugly and mean. Please do not add to it. We certainly have enough. Surround yourself with people that make you happy.

Do me a favor and watch this video. It's called "Wear Sunscreen". Watch ALL of it. Look up the lyrics.

Be you.
Be amazing.
Be happy.
And when you’re not, just remember - it will be okay.

I love you,

Mrs. Heather M. Lister

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