Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Prom Speech

Today is the Prom at our high school, and I teach seniors. Every year I give a big 'prom speech' to all of my seniors in class on the day before the big event (and a similar, but modified one before Winter Formal and graduation). There are a few variations year to year, but the main message is always the same. Here's what I tell them:

I'm going to give you my prom speech, because I'm a mama, and you'll just have to humor me. I have my own kids, but you're my kids, too, so you'll just have to deal with me being a mama for a moment. There are three things I'd like to talk to you about.

The first one is, that I'll be chaperoning the dance. (This is almost always the case.) I specifically sign up for prom duty, because I like to see you all dressed up. I love to see all the beautiful dresses, and I love to see the guys all dressed up in their tuxes. You all look so grown up, such ladies and gentlemen! It's one of my favorite things to see. Please come by, find me! I can't wait to see you, meet your date, and take a few pictures. However, that being said, one of my least favorite things is seeing the dancing that goes on out on the dance floor. Having fun, or being close and romantic is one thing, but the 'freaking' on the dance floor? I don't need to see it! I don't need that image in my head. Simulated sex on the dance floor is not dancing! And it totally undoes the elegant sophisticated look you took all day cultivating as you were getting dressed up like young ladies and gentlemen. I know some of you are going to do it anyway, because you think that's the way you're supposed to dance, or you don't know any other way. If that's the case, and I have the unfortunate luck to have my duty on the dance floor, please do me the courtesy of coming by, introducing me to your date, and then moving to the OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE DANCE FLOOR to dance.

The second part of the speech deals with a much more serious thing, which is the whole issue of drinking. There are a lot of you who think that because you're feeling all grown up and dressed up, and it's a festive time, that it's okay to drink. First of all, let me remind you that IT'S NOT LEGAL. But you know that, and some of you will choose to ignore that. So if you choose to make the first bad decision and drink on prom night, don't make a second bad decision to get behind the wheel of a car. When you are driving home from the prom, I will be, too, and I want to make it home alive. I have babies at home that want me to make it home alive. I want all of you to make it home alive and to be back here on Monday, safe and sound. I want you to make it to your graduation, which you have all worked so hard for.

This is not just about you drinking. If you are with someone who has been drinking, don't let them get behind the wheel. They might be mad at you, but that's okay. They'll get over it. Don't be the one who watches someone drive away, and then later finds out he spun out of control on the way home because he shouldn't have been driving. Decisions like that--one stupid decision--can irrevocably alter people's lives. Forever. Don't be that person. Don't let your friend be that person. Make good decisions. And if you make the first bad decision to drink, make a second good decision, and stay where you are, or have a designated driver. Call mom or dad to pick you up. Call ME to pick you up. I don't care if you call me a three o'clock in the morning. I would jump in the car and come get you to take you home, rather than have you driving out on the road, drunk. I am absolutely sincere about that.

The last word about drinking is please don't show up to the prom already drunk. I've had students who have been ejected within 15 minutes of their arrival because they had so obviously been drinking. This is supposed to be a fun night, and getting kicked out of the prom is not fun. Even really good kids sometimes have a lapse of judgment, but you don't want that kind of lapse in judgment to put to waste all the money and time you spent getting ready for this event. And what if you are the girlfriend whose date got caught, drunk? You are either stuck there to finish out the prom alone, or you have to go home. Even worse, students who get caught drunk at the prom will get expelled under Zero Tolerance. After all those years of hard work, after all that time invested, don't make a decision that could lead to you not walking graduation with all of your classmates when you are so close to the light at the end of the tunnel.

And finally, speaking of graduation, let's do the math, shall we? We are about five weeks away from the big night, the culmination of all your years of academic work. Prom night is a big night for a lot of kids. You're feeling grown-up, you're feeling you are on the verge becoming a fully independent young adult. And a lot of students feel that this is the perfect time to experiment with other 'grown-up' behaviors. All I'm going to say is, that five weeks down the line, right about graduation time, you don't want to discover that you've accidentally come away from the Prom with an extra souvenir, ladies--one that will be with you forever. Be careful. Make good choices.

And have a great time!

Donna Lutjens


  1. As a future parent of high schoolers, I hope someone of authority such as yourself takes the time and effort to mention making good decisions at prom (and graduation)for my kids...parents will talk about drinking/driving until they're blue in the face, but most teenagers will role their eyes and continue with their carefully crafted plans of after prom's hoping your message made an impact.

  2. I like the extra souvenir line.

    Excellent prom talk.

  3. What a great prom speech! I love that you take the time to show your students how much you care!
    It's all about choices, isn't it?

  4. Wonderful, motherly advice.
    I so agree with you on the dancing thing...

  5. Eeks. Prom. That's a great speech though. I hope they all listen.

  6. I'm so glad to hear that these kids have a teacher like you who cares enough to take the time to talk to them. If only half of it sticks in their head they'll be better for it.

  7. I loved reading this especially because I have a Senior and she just went to prom a couple of weeks ago and I like blunt and straight-forward. That's how I roll.

    2 things: I want all of my kid's teachers to be like you; and I have a great Senior. Prom was all good. Phew.

  8. Excellent. I really hope they all listened!

  9. Thanks for all of the great and supportive comments. I worry every once in awhile that some parent is going to get upset because I've 'over-stepped my bounds,' but I figure it's an important message, and they just can't hear it enough. I'll stick by it. I even had a mom come up to me at the end of the prom to thank me--she said her son had told her all about the speech at breakfast that morning. My students may not all love English, but they do know I care about them. I can't vouch for the 'no souveniers' thing, but I do know that the prom was a success, and they all made it back safely to school on Monday!

  10. Hi -- I love this speech. I hope you don't mind but I tweeted it. I don't have your twitter name, but I used the entire url of this blog. As a mom I want to sat thanks for looking out for kids everywhere. My children are young now. I hope I remember your speech around prom season when they are older.


  11. Jill,

    Thanks so much--that's very flattering! You can also find me at twitter as msprimadonna67.