Here goes my talk to the 42 students in my class (which takes about 15 minutes):
All right, class, now we're going to talk about the rules of our class. If you're anything like me, I grew up dreading these discussions because rules always feel like...well...rules. They're suffocating. Stifling. Boring. I hear you. I felt the same way. I was the kid who earned something like 60 detentions his freshman year in high school. And I was the principal's son. Yup.
So please look at our class rules. What do you notice is similar about them all?
You're right. In fact, they all start with respect. And that's one thing about respect that I think lots of people get wrong. I've heard students say it this way, "I'll respect her when she respects me." And I always want to ask them back, "Who's the more mature one: you or her?" And they never say their friend. So I ask them if it makes sense for them to wait for the immature friend to start showing respect first? They may giggle, smirk, shrug -- whatever -- but they get it. Respect starts with them.
So our first rule is "Respect yourself and your future." It's the first rule because it's most important. These are in order of importance. This may seem weird, but I want you to repeat after me, "I am the most important person in this class." *they repeat after me, giggling a bit* And you are. I want you to fast-forward 6 years from today (for 7th-graders, 5 years for 8th graders). What are you most likely doing?
STUDENTS: Going to college.
That's right. You're starting college. And do you know how many of these students sitting around you will be there? Zero. None. Okay, maybe one.
See, something I've learned about life is that it's a bunch of chunks of time. You're in this 2-year era called Middle School. You're going to have some great times with these people around you. You're going to make a lot of good friends and fun memories. And then in two years, you won't be with all of these people anymore. And in 6 years, you'll be with almost none of them. And that's why that's our first rule: "Respect yourself and your future." Because in just a few years, you're going to be all you've got. You think your mom's going to come stay in your dorm with you?
Now, our 2nd rule: "Respect your fellow students and their right to learn."
*Then I pull up a zoomed-out live screen of Google Earth.*
I'm going to magically turn you all into glowing green dots on this map. You're all glowing right here (point to your spot on the map). In 2 years, you're all going to fly a little ways away to your various high schools. One of you might move to North Carolina. One of you to San Francisco. Then in 6 years though, things really get crazy. Your dots are going to fly all over the globe.
And across the ocean.
Which is why this 2nd rule isn't too far off from our 1st. If you goof off in your class, like I did my freshman year, you're not just stealing from your own future, but you're stealing from 42 other futures sitting here with you. 42 futures who are going to fly all over the globe into their own lives just as you are.
And if I could go back to my freshman self, I would say, "How dare you steal this time from 33 other futures?"
Because when we think of it that way, it makes my so very hilarious joke right in the middle of their science class not so funny. Should we have fun in school? Yes. Tell jokes? Yes. But it matters when. Because all of our futures are at stake.
Like mine. Rule #3 says, "Respect your teacher." I know you may not realize it, but when I leave here everyday, I go home and I'm a husband, dad, friend, basketball player, dude eating at the Habit. I'm just a guy. So when you leave trash on my floor to clean up and don't put the library books back the right way, you're taking time away my daughters would get to have with their dad. And here in class, I have a future too. This is my 13th year teaching. I'm probably going to teach for another 30 years. I'll be 65 someday. My glowing green dot isn't going anywhere. It might even be in this classroom for the next 30 years. I know that might seem sad and pathetic to you, but I love my job, and I'm happy to be here for 30 more years.
So are you really going to make 1 of my 30 a miserable year? Or what about your P.E. teacher who has 3 more years till retirement? Are you going to make 1 of his 3 years left miserable? And who am I to make 1 of your 2 years here (50%) a miserable time? We're in this together. All of our futures, woven together here.
In this place. This school.
Rule #4: "Respect your school's property and community." Did you know you go to the #1 middle school in Orange County? Do you think we just woke up last year and got that honor? No way. We are the best school because we have been becoming the best school. 6 years ago, we were one of the worst schools of our kind, so how did we get here. Choices. One choice at a time and lots of working together.
(to the returning 8th graders) And you were part of that. You were 1/2 of the school last year that made us #1. In fact, you're the only 1/2 left. The other 1/2 is off at high school now.
(to the new 7th graders) And you inherited all that. You didn't earn any of it. The 8th graders did. They were 1/2 of the school last year that was #1. You weren't. But you're next. What are you going to do now at the #1 school?
Because when you came on campus, you saw the fresh paint. This place is nice. You see the new walls they replaced. Maybe you've heard of the blueprints they've got to build a new gymnasium and science labs and performing arts center. That's your community. The one you didn't earn. The one you inherited. I dare you to live into it. How are you going to carry this legacy? How are you going to leave this place even better? How are you going to care for your future and all these other 42 futures around you?
Because we believe in you. We need you. Now go get started.