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End of the Course Letter to Students

Updated: 3 hours ago

As the school year draws to a close, we give students an encouraging letter that offers guidance for what lies ahead. Many students have reached out over the years and communicated that "the letter" had a tremendous impact on the outcome of their life. Many say they still have it posted somewhere in their home. The response of former students has been touching beyond words, and after some reflection, we decided to share one version of the letter so that you can use it, or parts of it, or even compose your own end-of-course letter to your students using this as a model. 

Soon our time together in this course will come to an end. It was certainly unique! Looking back, it seems like it all happened so fast. Please allow me to leave you with a few thoughts.

We did our best, or at least I’d like to think we did. Some of our efforts worked very well. Others did not work out as well as we would have liked. Yet we worked together and we persisted, holding to the hope that success was just beyond the horizon.

Failure…is inevitable. We all fail somewhere along the line. The race you lost, the test you failed, the boyfriend or girlfriend you didn’t get. It’s OK. Failure will teach you a lot about yourself. The point is, you get up, brush yourself off, and get on with life. Do not dwell on your failures or mistakes. Instead, learn from them and use them as motivation to make yourself stronger. Failure leads to success.

Many overlook that Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, yet his 714 home runs are well-remembered. Thomas Edison is known for inventing the light bulb after numerous failed attempts—nearly 10,000. Abraham Lincoln lost 7 races for public office before winning 2. Winston Churchill failed 6th grade and the British Military Academy exam three times, yet became one of World War II's greatest leaders. The key lies in learning from failures; success involves falling down 9 times, gaining insight into avoiding falls each time, and standing up 10. People remember you for your successes because they hunger for inspiration, and instinctively focus on the courage and hope you offer the world. 

Be thankful for your many blessings. Here’s a little perspective: There are around 8.7 million known species (and likely many more we haven’t discovered yet) on this earth right now, yet only one can make deliberate choices to improve the quality of its life: Humans. The current scientific consensus is that modern humans have been on this planet for approximately 800 lifetimes. The first 740 or so were spent in absolutely primitive and likely miserable conditions we cannot fathom. Think cave people. Then about 5,000 years ago, the written word was developed, but only very few could read and write it. Just in the last 8 lifespans did most people have access to books, after the printing press made them widely available. About 2 lifespans ago cars were invented to enable people to travel lumber distances on a regular basis. Most medical improvements and other luxuries have been invented during the last 2 lifespans. Even today, only about 1 billion people on Earth live in a more economically developed country. At the other end of the economic spectrum, approximately 1 billion people earn less than $1 per day. Wake up in the morning and say thank you for having been born a human, during this time, and in this place where we have prosperity and the freedom to make many of our own choices.  

Make wise choices. Humans can make choices, but many of us blindly follow the crowd. Many others find themselves slaves of their negative thoughts. Remember that you choose your attitude each moment of every day. Successful people consistently choose a positive attitude. The renowned French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre conducted a captivating experiment with processionary caterpillars, known for their synchronized marching. He lined them up head-to-tail along the inner edge of a flowerpot and observed closely as they circled persistently. After three days, he introduced pine needles—their preferred food—into the pot's center. Despite being so close to their favorite sustenance, they kept following each other until they succumbed to starvation or dehydration. If one of them had just left the line and traveled 10 centimeters, they all would have had plenty of food and water. Humans don’t have to follow the crowd. We can say and do what we know to be right, regardless of what others say and do. 

Forgive yourself when you fall short of your expectations. Forgive others in the same way. Forgiveness frees your spirit and allows you to achieve greater happiness in life. This will energize you and allow you to help others in ways you cannot when you bear the burden of the past.

Self-belief and hard work lead to success. Everyone intuitively knows that success requires hard work. Many people have the desire to work hard but lack the focus and determination to muster the energy and a positive attitude to actually do it day after day. Those who do, however, find that working hard can be rewarding and deeply satisfying. When I was in high school, I remember my elders saying that working harder in your teens and twenties leads to opportunities that make life easier in the long run. I am now old enough to see the wisdom in their words.

You live in a time of unprecedented opportunities. You have access to more knowledge and information than I could have imagined would be available when I was in high school. I look forward to hearing about the exciting adventures that lie ahead for each of you. But be careful out there, the world can be a tough place. Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for yourself and others. Drive safely. Don’t use illegal drugs. Think about the answer to this question: Why take unnecessary risks that offer no truly meaningful reward?  

Serve others. The world is full of people in need, and we are called to serve them. I think you will find that while helping others you will simultaneously help yourself. And while it is important to give money to those in need, don’t just give money. The most important things you have to offer are not things at all, but rather our time, listening, words of comfort, tears, sweat, blood (donated during a blood drive), and compassion. It's not just what we do that matters, but also the inner impetus behind our actions. You were placed here and in this time to enrich the world. Be the light that dispels the darkness from the lives of those around us.

“Happiness comes from serving others.” -Orrin Woodward

Now for a short biology lesson:

Agricultural scientists have been growing fruit trees in greenhouses, and have made some interesting observations. At first, the trees grow very rapidly and appear very healthy. As the trees mature and begin to bear fruit, however, a problem arises. The branches bear so much fruit that the branches end up breaking. This makes little sense to a scientist because the tree is dropping its fruit to the ground before it is mature therefore eliminating its chances of reproduction. It turns out that when a tree is grown indoors without wind, drought, thunderstorms, and other obstacles it becomes weak. The hardships a tree endures make it strong enough to support the weight of its fruit. It seems people have some things in common with fruit trees. Hardship breeds perseverance and resilience. These are the traits that enable us to adapt and thrive in the world we live in. Never lose hope. Never give up. Life doesn’t get easier as you get older, but you get stronger. So much stronger, that it might look like it's easy to others. Adversity is inevitable in life, but you can choose to face with honor whatever adversity comes your way.

You are a unique and beautiful person. According to our knowledge of DNA and our understanding of how humans respond to the environment, there has never been, is not now, nor will there ever be, another person like you. You have been given unique gifts. Discover them. Use them and share them with others for the good of humanity. Some of us will be speakers, writers, artists, craftsmen, engineers, caretakers, protectors, comforters, businesspersons, health care providers, lawyers, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, etc. Be ethical and do the best you can in each of your roles. I have seldom been more inspired than when I was watching the Special Olympics. Each of us, whether we know it or not, has special talents and a purpose for being here now. 

You are the sum total of your set of behaviors. Every time you act, you say to the world: This is me! Keep that in mind as you travel through this life.  

Degrees and honors are not the true measure of life. Neither is wealth or fame or titles. What matters most are the standards you live by, the love, patience, and kindness you show others, and the way you use the gifts you are given.

In conclusion, I want to thank you for allowing me to teach you. It has truly been a privilege. 


[Insert Teacher Name Here]

Achieve Success!!!

"I never let my schooling get in the way of my education." -Mark Twain

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