I realise many of my ex-students may remember some of these phrases from the past, but this year’s group particularly have been special to me. I have taught many of them since grade 7; the majority I have been with every year since grade 9- an absolute honour and privilege.
This is an abridged version of a much longer speech I gave in one of the last lessons I had with them. A little longer time wise as I choked on a few words! We have dusty classrooms where I teach.
Dear Class of 2019,
Congratulations on making it nearly to the end of your schooling…well at least nearing the end of your time with me. Many of you have been with me since Grade 7 and now in grade 12 so you might have a little insight into how I work and why I love to talk like I do.
This is the first of my opportunities to say some final words and reflect on my time with you. It has been a blessing to sit down with Tanya (*Year Level Coordinator) and reflect on what we would love to leave you with. Take it all in. Live in the moment. Enjoy. We have tried hard to make it count and have significance- be blessed.
Tanya, our chats over the last two years, our meetings, our prayer times, our solving the problems of the world have allowed me to become a better teacher, a better man, a better Dad figure to this lot. You allowed me the freedom to be the person God wants me to be and give Him my best. I know you appreciate who I am and strive to be, even when at times I felt lost and uncertain of my purpose and calling. Sorry for wanting to quit about 83 times over the last two years. I think I have only wanted to quit twice the past week.
In 26 years doing this gig, I have never really been this vulnerable and open with a group of Grade 12s. I’ve done this type of letter before, but this has been a tough year and a tough one to write.
A group of people who are a part of me are leaving.
A group of people who have played a part in shaping my character are leaving.
A group of people who have seen me at my absolute best and my absolute worst are leaving.
A group of people who have walked so many personal journeys with me are leaving.
A group of people who have stood by my side in my own struggles and my family’s struggles are leaving.
A group of people who I have had more hours with than my own family at times, had longer chats with, laid awake in bed at night worrying about, shared so much of my life with, are leaving.
Make a difference
Years ago, I felt it on my heart that God wanted to use me to make a difference in peoples’ lives- and that is where you come in. I loved my grade 12 year and I know how important a year it is…but this is the start of something big for you. It is a brand new day about to dawn on you. This is not the end though. This is the beginning of your life; you are the focus of many peoples’ attention, gaze and prayers. The prayers have been flowing thick and fast the last month.
My own sons and my wife have been through so much as I have got closer and closer to you lot the last four years. You have been on our journey and I think often they have been on your journey as well. We have had our own struggles as a family and yet despite pain, hurt, disappointment and frustrations, we are still together. They have heard me mention many of you and are under the impression I think that about 20 of you are moving in with us next year.
At this point of time I want to continue to give some parting words of wisdom or insight to see you on your way. I initially started giving final words to my Grade 12s in 1997. I have counted it an incredible blessing and privilege to be a part of your life. You will have a special place in my heart, and I will always remember this class.
You were the class that since Grade 9 were here as I struggled through my own thoughts. I just wanted to take the easy path so many times, quit and give up. You were the class I looked to when I needed a reality check. You were the class that made me happy to come to work each day, and you were also the class that saw me on the days you knew I was somewhere else and had checked out.
Many of you saw right through this and either avoided me at all costs or pressed me till I opened up and told you what was going on in this strange head of mine. Actually, there were probably times I told you stuff you didn’t want to know anyway!
*At this point I read from Romans chapter 15 (The Message version)
Do not be afraid to appeal to God for help and answers. Never give up appealing to others for His mercy, love, goodness, uprightness, faithfulness and grace. Not so that you will be raised up and glorified, but so your family, friends, the disadvantaged and our God will be raised up and that Jesus will be reflected in who you are.
Please be encouraged by what I have said to you today. I pray that in some small way I have presented who Jesus is to you. I am who I am today because of Jesus. He brought me to a wonderful wife, he has given me three amazing sons, and he has given me you. I have said things to many of you and shared my life when I haven’t wanted to share my life. I have trusted many of you with my deepest thoughts, struggles, frustrations, theories, pain, joys, thrills and doubts.
In the years that follow, please reflect on my strengths as a person, as a Christian and as a teacher- not on my weaknesses. My promise to you is that I will do the same when I think of you. I wanted to be a better Christian to you. It really evolved into trying to be the best example of a Christian Dad that I could.
My only prayer many a time was not for God to fix you, change you or make you a better person or even solve your conflict or problem, but that as I sat and listened to your story, your pain, your hurt, your frustration, your theory, your joy, your happiness, your thrill or your doubt, that you would feel as if Jesus was sitting right there in front of you listening to you as well.
I have always been a big supporter of Australian music and artists. I have a song by great Aussie artist Alex Lloyd that sums up what I have been trying to share today with you. I hope you can see my heart for you and your grade through this song. If I was able to, I would sing it to you, but that would just wreck the mood.
*At this point I played the song: Brand New Day
If you ever find the need to visit, or life throws up a raw deal, or another raw deal, and I know some of you have had plenty, please call, please drop-in, if it isn’t me then please promise to yourself to find that someone or group of people who will listen, encourage and even pray with you. Find that person or group of people in your life who will pick you up again and again and again. Find people in your life who lead you in life, fill you with hope, tell you how it is and not take you down a path of pain, hurt and destruction.
I hope to share in your joys over the coming years wherever you may end up. Show me your husband, show me your wife, show me your kids!!
Please be encouraged by what I have said to you today. One thing is for certain: you will often be in the prayers and thoughts of your teachers here. What we have here at the College is unique. I have taught in many places. There are many teachers here who genuinely care for you. I really believe many of the teachers here say it and mean it when they say they really care for you. When they say they care for you- they do! When they say they will be there for you- they will! I would stake my own reputation on backing them to say what they mean.
You are my brothers.
You are my sisters.
You are my sons.
You are my daughters.
Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. Jesus is waiting for you to follow Him and join His Father in heaven one day. I want to be there and I can’t wait to see you there as well.
God Bless each and every one of you.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html