Tomorrow night is graduation and I will have to say goodbye to my students who have been a part of my life for the last few years. As they get their diplomas and set sail off on their new journey, I feel like I am left behind on shore. The past few days they have streamed into my classroom giving me pictures and notes, signing my yearbook, and imploring me to “not forget them.” I sign their yearbooks and pose for pictures while giving them those teacherly words of wisdom while hiding the fact that I will be lonely without their presence on campus. I am seriously going to miss them.
I started teaching in 2007. As a new teacher I hadn’t found my niche in the school. I just tried to wade through my curriculum and get a hang of classroom management. I advised a couple of different clubs, but nothing seemed to gel. This changed when I became part of our school’s Health Career Academy and became an advisor for HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America). My role was to assist with the academy and teach a cohort class. I got my first group in the fall of 2009; they were all sophomores in my English Honors class. I had never met such a lively, motivated, and positive group before. Everyday was fun. I taught, they learned. I assigned; they embraced. I presented an idea; they ran with it. I went with them on field trips and attended their meetings. Then in the summer of 2010, after the state leadership conference where one of them qualified for nationals in Orlando, I was chosen to escort her. She and I left as student and teacher; we came back “niece” and “aunt”.
That fall my “niece” was the president of Academic Decathlon and they needed a new coach. Now I have been coaching AcaDec for two years, and had the opportunity to meet more students. In my first year I took 41 students to competition, and this year it was 57. My team met twice a week practicing speeches, interviews and essays while studying the art, music, history, literature, and science of specific time periods. These kids love learning. Tomorrow, half of my team is graduating.
In the 2010-2011 school year I taught a cohort of juniors American Lit. This year I decided to take on a new challenge and teach seniors for the first time. In my three classes I had many familiar faces from the last two years and many more new faces. They rose to the challenge of media analysis, creative writing, literary theory, Othello, Pride and Prejudice, and Like Water For Chocolate while writing five essays for their senior portfolio. Everyday there was laughter and probing of ideas. Even though my spring term students got hit hard by senioritis, they managed to pull it together and pass.
Through all of this I’ve watched them grow up and try new things. They made plans, got jobs, and dealt with time management. I’ve seen hook-ups and break-ups, making new friends and falling outs. I did my best to challenge them and they, too, challenged me. So tomorrow night it will be bittersweet as they receive their diplomas. We both have worked hard to get them to this point and beyond. As their teacher and advisor, I feel like I have grown up with them and found my place in my school. They will leave and I will stay. Where are they going? Stanford, Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, the CSU’s, the US Naval Academy, the armed forces, and community college. This graduating class is going places.
Where will I be? Back in my room with my sophomores to begin this process again.