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Schermerhorn: Open letter to our young people

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

Welcome to a new school year!

It will mean new experiences for each of you; new teachers, new friends, new schedules, maybe a new school, learning to open your locker, maybe learning a new language, new novels, a new activity or sport. Starting many new things can be a bit scary. 

The best way to succeed in new situations is to be prepared. Come to class armed with the school supplies required by the teacher. Practice those skills being asked of you whether by a teacher or a coach. Memorize math tables since that equips you for a lifetime of math. Read; it is your gateway to the world. Find topics that interest you, then find books, e-books or articles online to read about the topics. Read the novels assigned to you; it is very possible they will open your eyes to new ideas.

Write, write, write. No matter how difficult it might be for you, expressing yourself in writing is a key element to improving your thinking. When you write, you have to pause your life for a few minutes and reflect on what you’re doing, thinking or hoping for. If you write it down, you won’t forget it. You always can return to your words later. You can see if your ideas have changed.

Practice your musical instrument, soccer ball control, chess or football passes because you can advance only with practice. Run through the scales with your voice so you can be an asset to your choir. Review world language parts of speech. Speak in the language with others. It is a skill you will never regret having learned.

Keep your body healthy by eating the right foods, getting enough rest, exercising and avoiding harmful substances. If you are on a team, you owe it to your teammates to stay in top shape. You owe it to yourself to give 100 percent in everything you do.

Attend school every day. If not, you will miss too much in your classes, activities and with your friends. Once you get behind, it can become a downward spiral. Young people that come to class unprepared and without their homework increase the amount of stress and unhappiness in their day-to-day lives. Not only do you risk a poor grade, disapproval by the teacher and your parents, you disappoint yourself. You are better than that. It is entirely up to you to live up to your own standards.

Your attitude is crucial. Come to school with your brain open and ready to learn. Challenge yourself to learning five new things each day, or even more. Be kind to everyone. Your kindness and respect toward others will reflect well on you. It will make your experiences at school easier and more pleasant.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Everyone makes mistakes. If you trip up the stairs, just get up and laugh about it. If you give the wrong answer, listen so you learn the correct one. It takes courage to admit you are not perfect. Your classmates will notice your confidence and respect you even more.

Not every experience will be rosy. In those cases, ask for help. If it is about another student, ask your teacher or social worker. If it’s about not understanding an assignment, ask your teacher, parent or a classmate. If it’s about an activity, ask the coach or teacher adviser. If it is about difficult feelings, ask an adult right away. When you ask, you show a willingness to improve.

Give this school year all you’ve got and in every way. Be prepared. Focus full attention on everything you do. Enjoy the people in your life: friends, teachers, coaches and family.

You are the only one that can make sure this school year is the best one yet.

• Leslie Schermerhorn is regional superintendent of McHenry County schools.

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