Social Studies teacher Joe Clement
Social studies teacher Joe Clement gives his students a weekly message because he cares about their wellbeing. Each Friday he encourages his students to make the right choices for themselves over the weekend. He does so because he is aware of the situations and decisions that teenagers can be presented with and wants to help his students make the right ones.
“[The speech] is basically an extended reminder to make good decisions over the weekend. As the years went by- I started saying this sort of thing in about 1997- I have added to the list of things to not do. It has become kind of a silly list, but the general idea is to remind students to use their heads, and to let them know that their families and friends are not the only ones who care about them, that their teachers do as well. I know most students see it as a goofy little thing I say each week, but I think they understand that many of us say these things because we care about our students. Sadly, all of us who have been teaching for more than a few years have had a student hurt or killed by either their own bad decision or the bad decision of someone else, or both. Those things tend to happen on weekends, so I started doing the speech on Thursday and Friday. I just hope that they think before they act. It seems that when people make bad decisions, it’s often because they act on impulse. Something that seems like a great idea might not be a great idea, especially if it’s after midnight. I think and hope that’s the main message they get.”
English teacher Martha
English teacher Martha Verbanic’s well-known speech instills the warning that time flies and that one must take advantage of it. She influences her students to work hard in school while enjoying it because it will help them succeed throughout the rest of their lives.
“I’m sure every teacher has, at some point in time, given some sort of speech because we are either trying to inform you or inspire you. A lot of times, with freshmen, [the speech] is helping you get the big picture and make good decisions for yourself moving forward and not screw up and feel like you’ve ruined everything. You try really hard to do anything you can to help kids be successful, and that’s one of the reasons I like teaching ninth grade so much; it’s because I get to watch kids grow over the course of four years physically, emotionally, academically, etc. And so when they’re seniors, I feel like I really know them well. One thing I always say to freshmen is that you may think that these four years are going to be really long, but in the blink of an eye you’re going to be walking across the stage at the Patriot Center and think “How did this happen so fast?” I feel like every teacher does everything he or she can do to help students succeed.”
English teacher Clougherty
Though she thinks that her speech is cliché, the speech given by English teacher Barbara Clougherty leaves its mark on her students. She makes lessons learned through her curriculum applicable to real life situations that she knows her students will face. She communicates this message to her upperclassmen, especially through her prom talk.
“Part of what I do as a teacher is try to teach more about life skills and give my students a way of viewing life instead of just English and literature. And one way I’ve found of viewing life is to live a more self-reflective life, so that they’re seeing every moment, they’re living each moment like a poet, in that a poet is very self-reflective and can take the ordinary and view it with meaning beyond that moment. And so if I give a talk, like the “prom talk,” it’s trying to get them to see prom, or any experience, beyond the ordinary. So the prom is a dance, a party. It’s fun, but it is also an opportunity for building community and having a shared experience with your junior and senior class. When I talk to my seniors, I try to have them reflect on the choices that they’re making about going to prom before actually going to prom and seeing it more as a really fun time and a fun party [rather than] getting so caught up in “Now my group is closed,” or “Who are the friends that I’m going with?” It is not courtship; you are not courting this person; you are just asking a friend to a really nice party. It’s like treating the whole class as your friends and thinking beyond yourself. I go from there to talking about whatever choices people make. Just be thinking about the choices you make.” -