Today was graduation, a day I savor every year, and this one was no different. The class of 2008 will always have a special place in my heart; I taught them as 9th and 11th graders, and they were also my first time teaching advanced courses. The woman who used to teach advanced 9th graders at our school was a legend, and stepping into her shoes was a big task, but I think I did a pretty good job with the group in the 9the 9th grade. 11th grade was slightly more rocky, at least from my perspective - having them in two classes of 37 and 38, respectively, didn't help - but even with a new course I think we did just fine. I taught 9 of the 10 students in the Top Ten for two years in English, including, of course, the valedictorian and the SGA President. This all felt very good.
Graduation Day feels like a genuine Teacher Appreciation Day. Before and after the ceremony, parents and students come up to me for a hug, a handshake, or a "Congratulations." I kid you not when one woman, the mother of a student very dear to me, who I had never met, looked me in the eyes and stated with her deep African accent that, "We take you teachers for granted, but, really, you have helped raise my child. Thanks so much." I mean, how could I not get teary-eyed and goosebumpy after hearing that?
For about ten kids that meant a particular lot to me, I have spent the last few weeks trying to think of the perfect gift to give them. I think I matched them up well - The White Boy Shuffle for the brilliant basketball player, on his way to MIT; Moneyball for a kid I both coached and taught, and who loves to read; an Obama book for the politically-minded aforementioned SGA President, who is on her way to a small school in California before she starts running for Congress; Dust Tracks on the Road for the spitfire I imagine has the same sort of spunk that Zora Neale Hurston had. I wrote letters to all of them, something I'd never done before.
Afterwards, we did our annual thing of having celebratory brunch and drinks at City Cafe. Because of the rain - well, we used that as an excuse, at least - we stayed longer than intended. It was a good afternoon.
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