Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Seven Days Left….But Who’s Counting

My school lets out in seven days. That’s seven teaching days which means May 30th is my last day with this year’s seventh graders. They’ve been an interesting bunch, but saddest for me is the group of eighth graders that will be leaving us for high school this coming year. Every now and then comes a group that you bond with a little differently than the others. I’ve had that experience three times since I started teaching.

I’ve taught more students than I could ever possibly count. But there are some who will always stand out.

In my first year it was Neilson and Morgan. Neilson is one of my favorite people. The word eccentric was created for him as was the word genius. So intelligent he can be scary at times, he was one of the few who got my sense of humor and who could hold an adult level conversation with me. I love Neilson. He has gone on to college where he will one day change the world. I just hope he remembers I was always on his side when his moment of world domination arrives…and that he promised me Montana.

Morgan. Sweet, ethereal Morgan. Long blonde hair, straight as a razor and a tall willowy form that made you expect to see her in tie-dye with a peace symbol and little John Lennon sun glasses. Morgan was a writer and a very good one. I’d say she followed the tune of a different drummer, but the truth is Morgan beats out her own rhythm wherever she goes. She faces the world with optimism and the absolute assuredness that it is a good place and that it is beautiful.

A handful of years ago I had the opportunity to follow a group of students through two grade levels. It’s called looping. I taught them in the sixth grade and looped up with them into the seventh. It meant forming a closer bond with them than I might otherwise have done because we didn’t have to do the “getting to know you” stuff in the beginning.

Jesse. Affectionately known as “Tatertot,” Jesse will one day grace the stages of a comedy show like Saturday Night Live. He is born to make people laugh and always knows exactly the right buttons to push to have you giggling despite yourself. Robin Williams is a lightweight compared to Jesse. He ran his mom a merry chase that year and I think I saw her at school as much as I saw him. I still think of Jesse and I’m waiting for the day when he turns Jim Carey into “that guy that was in that movie with Jesse.”

Sam. I’m not sure they come more special than Sam. Brilliant and savvy, shrewd and calculating. These all describe one of the people I will remember all my life. There wasn’t a trick Sam didn’t know—along with the counter move and the counter-counter move. A sharp, dry and sarcastic wit that I’ve never seen paralleled hid a sensitive and compassionate nature. But above all, Sam will never be anyone’s fool. He can look at a person and see past their façade. He knew in a moment who was genuine and who wasn’t. Sam is one of my favorite people because of who he is as a person. Sam will one day make the world sit up and take notice. Again, I just hope he remembers I was always on his side.

This year’s group of eighth graders has produced more than one or two souls that have touched my life and will stay with me. I am sad to see them leave our doors and I am excited at the prospects that await them in the world. Because they are still in school, I offer them by their alter ego’s.

Lord Acorn himself. The Frick to his buddy’s Frack. Lord Acorn taught me something this year. He taught me that you can be who you are, never hiding yourself despite what others may say about you because as long as you are telling the truth to yourself, no one can ever lie to you about your self worth, your place in the world or your humanity.

The Squirrel King. Frack to his pal’s Frick. The Squirrel King is one of the “smart” kids. And what he’s taught me is that you can still be respected for your intelligence without losing your ability to have fun. From entering my room James Bond style, complete with rolling across the floor and finger/thumb gun to the leprechaun dance, the Squirrel King knew that the secret to being happy with yourself and your world was to never forget to have that little bit of fun.

High school awaits m’Lord and m’King. Learn what you can from them, their knowledge is yours by right and you must demand they give it to you. Do honor to yourselves by never accepting second best from anyone around you or from yourselves. As long as you are the best you that you know how to be, you will be a success and I will be proud of you.

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
-Green Day


Kelly Kirch said...

Oh, it's so sad! But I take heart in knowing the incredible kids are going out there to do amazing things with our joint futures. Good job "Teach".

Anny Cook said...

I wish I had had a teacher like you back then...

Amarinda Jones said...

I was thinking the exact thing too, Anny...I may have actually liked achool

Molly Daniels said...

There are two emails floating around about fantastic, encouraging, and inspiring teachers. I think you fit both of them dear. The one about how the kid changed his life because one teacher cared enough to get over her prejudice toward his unkempt appearance, and the one where the teacher inspired her class to make a list of everyone's positive traits. At a funeral for either the teacher or a classmates, the kids, now grown, all revealed they had kept their lists and how it had changed their lives, or impacted their lives or something like that. You get the picture!