Monday, November 05, 2007

Graduation: A Teaching Story

I haven't done a teaching post in a while and I got thinking about it some last night.

My second year of teaching was the first year I taught seniors. Considering that in my first year I had taught 7th, 8th, and 9th grades so this was a considerable change. I was way off my game that whole year due to a lot of things... we were moving into a new section of the building, I got engaged to Sheryl, just a lot of stuff happening. I liked the kids that I taught but never felt a "real" connection with them, plus it was only one class.

The next year, my third, I had 4 classes of seniors. This is the group I talked about a couple of years ago. It was tough, but it was also some of the most rewarding times I had as teacher. And the best part of it was graduation. Having taught over 100 of these students, I was asked to be on stage and to help read their names, and it was an incredible honor. These were kids that I had worked with and struggled with and laughed with. To call the names of students that I had helped tutor and even ones that had given me a hard time just brought such a sense of closure to the whole thing. It was a senior class where two kids failed my English class and didn't graduate (on one hand, a terrible shame; on the other, it showed later senior classes that we were serious about the grades and no one was passing just to pass [they failed because they never came in a made up their work]). It included a girl with a 1 year old daughter who I had made a promise to at the beginning of the year. If she worked hard, I would help her in any way I could to make sure she would graduate. And she did. And I made sure I read her name as she walked across the dias and I stopped reading names to give her a hug because I was so incredibly proud of her.

As much hard work as graduation was to put together (renting the place, setting up, getting the right flowers, etc), seeing the whole group of seniors together was just a very rewarding experience. And it was like I told the seniors in the class of 2000 (my last year of teaching, even though I wasn't sure of it at the time), "Look around. This is the last time all of you will be together like this. Even at class reunions, not everyone will be there. So give hugs and remember yourselves as this group."

And it's crazy, because I'm not in regular contact with just about anyone I graduated with from Hume-Fogg, but I remember most of the names (of course with only 83 people in the graduating class, it's easier to do that than with 2,000). I remember the people that I hung with and even though that's literally half a lifetime ago, I still have great memories of it and I hope the kids I taught have some of those same memories too.


Eli MF Cash said...

ah... the mem'ries!

Lori Cooper said...

I second Eli's comment (who incidentally is one of those people I stood with in the class of 2000 and remember fondly). :-)

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