A Thank You and Open Letter to Mira Costa Seniors

Thank you, Seniors!

(….. And, if you are a Junior, Sophomore, or Freshman … what I’m writing really applies to you, too. …..)

I was absolutely flabbergasted and incredibly touched and honored at the Mira Costa Senior Awards Assembly on Wednesday to be recognized as one of three 2016 Sandacre Teachers of the Year. Congratulations to Aaron Braskin and Nicole Wachell, the other two. The accompanying letter from Denise Anderson, Sandacre Teacher of the Year Facilitator, states:

“The criteria for this recognition is for senior students to nominate a Mira Costa teacher who has stimulated, inspired, and/or prepared his/her students for their future studies and/or other endeavors. You, as an educator, mentor, and friend have had a strong impact on your students.”

As I approach retirement in – gulp – just two weeks, I can’t imagine a better send off or anything that could have made me feel prouder or more honored than to be recognized in this way by Mira Costa’s students. I will truly cherish this award and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. I will also miss you all so much! I also thank the Sandacre Scholarship Fund for this honor and incredibly generous honorarium.

Before we all leave for our “next adventure” – I for retirement, and you for college, the start of a career, or a gap year of exploration – here are a few of the ways in which I have tried to prepare you and things I hope you will remember on your journey (in no particular order):

  • Always be true to yourself. Meet the requirements for your courses and studies, of course, but take advantage of college or work as an opportunity to learn what you want to learn and pursue your personal passions. It is through those that you will be fulfilled and make a difference in our world.
  • Remember that your college library or public library is an ideal place to find those resources to learn both what you need to and to pursue your passions. And, make best friends with the librarians there; they want nothing more than to assist you on your journey.
  • There are always many, many ways to get where you want to go. Don’t be discouraged if that initial route to the future, that first choice college, class, or job doesn’t come through; there are other choices that may even turn out to be better and prove a more satisfying adventure. The places you end up by accident are sometimes the best, and lots and lots of trial and error and failure along the way is pretty much essential to getting anywhere rewarding.
  • Try something new. If you’ve never made a video, challenge yourself to try out new software to make one. Read a book in different genre than you are used to. Take a course in a subject completely new to you. You’ll never know if something might prove a new interest or even a passion if you don’t try it out.
  • When you need information, don’t forget all the amazing databases available to you. We all love and use Google and Wikipedia, but you’ll be missing a whole world of quality information if you don’t take advantage of databases. Just visit your library or your library’s website to find out what’s available.
  • Never give up your searches after the first few hits. Put your detective hat on and try different terms to describe your topic and different approaches. And, as you read through the first few sources, look for new keywords you can use to help you dig deeper and find more helpful sources. Also take advantage of the bibliographies in the good sources to delve further.
  • Whatever sources you use, employ your critical thinking skills to evaluate them for quality, credibility, accuracy, currency, and appropriateness for your needs. And, remember, your local librarian is available to help you with this task.
  • Always, always give credit to those sources. Take advantage of tools like EasyBib or NoodleTools to create citations. Most of all, remember that the whole point of bibliography is not the formatting; it’s that you are giving credit and doing it in a way that will allow your reader or viewer to retrace your steps back to the source.
  • And, don’t just give credit. When you are creating a published or public online work, make sure that you are respecting intellectual property. Don’t use copyrighted material without permission unless you are doing so in a truly transformative way that can be justified as a fair use. Take advantage of the wealth of Creative Commons-licensed materials when you need images, music, and more for your creative endeavors. And, consider contributing to that body by licensing your own creative works with Creative Commons licenses. It’s easy. Just go to Creativecommons.org to find out how.
  • Develop a positive digital footprint. We all have digital footprints these days. You want yours to be the best. Put your best foot forward online. Publish your best academic work – presentations, videos, papers, and more – online. Consider blogging to showcase and reflect on your work and connect with others out in the world. And make sure you keep those moments you might not be so proud of offline. If you wouldn’t want your parents or future children to see you doing something, don’t post it.
  • Take advantage of positive social media to connect with, learn from, and share with the world. Twitter could be one of your best ways of developing a personal learning network. But, stay away from social media platforms that allow for anonymous postings. People who are proud of what they write and have something worthwhile to say are willing to own their postings.
  • Most people are good people, but not everyone is. Practice online safety. Keep your account information secure with strong passwords and don’t share them with friends. Don’t “friend” or meet people in person you don’t know in the real world. Sadly, not everyone online is who they say they are, and we all need to exercise caution to protect ourselves.
  • Always, always, be extra polite online. Never write or send anything that could be interpreted as hostile or bullying to another individual. By all means express your opinions, but only in a respectful manner that doesn’t attack another person. With the absence of body language and tone of voice, it’s so easy to misinterpret an online message as negative. Take that extra moment to check what you write every time before you send it out to the online world to make sure it’s really what you intended and not subject to a negative interpretation. Moreover, be an upstander: don’t tolerate any online or live bullying you observe; stand up for the person(s) being bullied.
  • Volunteer some of your time to make the world a better place. Building a better world happens one small act at a time. Better yet, find a way to merge your personal passions with some community service to help others.
  • And, finally, please READ! Read what you like, but read a lot and read widely. Reading is how we learn about the world, develop understanding of new concepts, visit new places far and wide both real and imaginery, find role models for ourselves, and learn empathy for others. Whatever you do, read something every day!

It makes me sad that I can’t suggest you come back and see me at the Mira Costa Library when you visit campus in the future. But, please do visit me online – on Twitter at @jane_librarian, my personal blog – Jane’s Adventures in School Library Land at janelofton.com, or by email at jane@lofton.com. I want to hear about your adventures, and I will always be ready to answer any of your questions and support your journey.

Thank you to all of you and to your teachers for the incredible honor and privilege of serving as your teacher librarian here at Mira Costa.

receiving award
Awards Assembly photo courtesy of Mae Sinkowitz

6 thoughts on “A Thank You and Open Letter to Mira Costa Seniors

  1. What a wonderful letter packed with the excellent advice you have been imparting to your students This needs to be shared widely.

  2. I just learned of your retirement. Wishing you lots of new adventures as you embark on this new phase of your life. It was a pleasure to get to know you during my volunteer hours at MCHS Library. You have made a positive impact on many students over the past years; now it is time to rest and enjoy yourself!
    Karen Gebert

  3. What a great letter. I hope you’re enjoying retirement. Visit us at the library if you get a chance – Regina

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