"The speech"

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO 2004008944

I knew that students might scoff at "the speech," but I gave it anyway--just in case it would reach someone. I told them that they were important to me and wished them a Merry Christmas, and then I cautioned them to be safe over New Years--pretty much the same speech I also delivered right before prom and graduation. As a teacher, I always felt that I had less influence over my students during the holidays--either to reassure them when they might be having a holiday depression or to caution them right before New Year's Eve. I had to do my part to prevent one of "my kids" being in a horrible accident or making a careless decision that could not be taken back.

In the 21 years I was in the classroom, I never had to teach class where there was an empty chair due to the death of one of "my" own students, though I shepherded student editors through the writing of numerous tributes and news stories about deaths of their classmates and teachers. Of course, I also knew students who had serious health issues (some that eventually took the lives of those students), and I had former students who died after graduation.

I once feared for several hours that one of my own students had committed suicide. Assistant principal Robert King also believed that to be true; and we worried together, making frantic phone calls off and on all day and hearing conflicting reports before finally learning that the student in question had lived through the attempt. Not long before she graduated, that student came to me and asked what I would have thought if she had actually died in the suicide attempt. I remember very clearly telling her that I would be mad at her for the rest of my life, because she would have thrown away the love and attention I had given her for three years. Thanksgiving

Though maybe not politically correct, that response came right from my heart and it shocked her. She objected, saying that she thought I would tell her how sad I would have been. I told her straight out that suicide is not romantic, and then I told her about Susie, whom my parents fostered for two years in her early teens. Susie wrote a suicide note and took an overdose not long after she turned 21. Standing beside her bed for days and then being there when the machines were turned off nearly killed my Mom. In the end, it seemed that Mom's love and anguish had been tragically wasted. "Don't you ever be the Susie of my life," I said.

During my years as a yearbook sales representative, I had numerous phone calls from advisers who needed help with the memorial pages in their books. One of the victims that I remember well was on the yearbook staff at her school. The teacher and the entire yearbook staff were devastated, as you can imagine, over the death of their assistant editor.

I remember so clearly seeing that student earlier in the year when she was sporting a horribly bruised forehead. She had banged her head against her car's windshield during a minor wreck. "Not wearing your seatbelt, I see," I told her, chiding her about how impossible it was to kiss the windshield while wearing a seatbelt. She broke her neck a few short weeks later in another accident, a wreck that her passengers walked away from, uninjured. It was a stupid accident caused by going too fast and goofing off with her friends just minutes after school let out one spring afternoon, and it was one she would have survived with a seatbelt.

One of my former students just sent me a note on Facebook to tell me that she is grateful that I have made it through some recent medical issues. She also said that she remembers "the speech" I gave every year before Christmas break. She thanked me for caring. I guess the speech did work. Wow. I'm so grateful that she went out of her way to tell me that, so many years later as her own children are in high school!

I might go crazy nowadays, if I were still teaching during these days of texting and driving... I'm so grateful that "my kids" made it to adulthood.

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Susan Neal
RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker

Hi Liz - Desppite what we sometimes think, young people do listen to what we tell them, and I'm glad they have a teacher like you who takes the time to give them "the speech."

Nov 19, 2011 01:08 PM #1
Liz Lockhart
Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO - Cape Girardeau, MO
GRI, Cape Girardeau Real Estate

Susan~ Thanks. Sometimes I feel a little guilty that I left teaching, but it is nice to hear from those former students.

I hope that those I now serve, my customers and clients, know that I care about them, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, Susan!

Nov 19, 2011 01:12 PM #2
Kristin Hamilton CA Realtor
Sun Lakes Realty - Banning, CA
(909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning

Hi Liz,

You will be blessed for all your help and hard work. Sounds like you were a great teacher and I am sure your students miss you. I am sure your speech got through and how wonderful you never had to have that horrible talk to your kids on the first day after vacation.

I just recently went on a tour to a 2mt - 18 yrs hospital where most of the kids were  in horrible accidents involving no seat belts, skateboarders, bike riders, swimmers and  kids walking down the street texting. Unfortunately they will live there until they get moved to an adult facility where they will live until they die. No movement from next down, most totally brain dead, and all because of accidents that could have been avoided. Very Sad!

Nov 19, 2011 01:26 PM #3
Larry & Jacque Ficek
Alaska Dream Makers - Wasilla, AK
Realtors - Wasilla Alaska

Hi there Liz, we could not agree more.

My folks always said that suicide was the easy way out for the person buthard on those that are left have to deal with it. 'It is a very permanent solution to a temporary problem' are the words echoing in my head from my pop. I was a police officer and often had the opportunity to share my parents thoughts on it to the kiddos. I got the same reaction from the kids but, if it made them think it was less glamorous, I was all in!

Reference the seat belt, I was also in a head on when I was 18 with a skull fracture and nasty soft tissue damage. A few days after my accident, I contacted my high school principal (who was now at an elementary school) and asked if I could come in and talk to his students. I was wearing my seat belt but I was still very injured and I thought it was important to show the kids what could happen.

Apparently it worked as my parents got several phone calls from parents demanding to know why the kids would not get into the cars with them. I remember my mom asking them 'well, are you wearing your seat belt?'

Jacque & Larry

Nov 19, 2011 04:39 PM #4
Liz Lockhart
Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO - Cape Girardeau, MO
GRI, Cape Girardeau Real Estate

Kristin~ Those cases are so sad. Just to have a few moments back for a re-do...

Jacque~If only a few listen, it is worth the effort and putting up with the rolled eyes.

Dec 26, 2011 04:20 PM #5
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