The Class of 2009 has left the building.
I will miss this class in ways that I don’t think I’ve ever missed a group of seniors before. This is my 14th graduation ceremony as a teacher and this was one of my proudest, but also one of the hardest. I did not get emotional or misty eyed, as I have done in the past (’08, ’06, 2000). But this really is the end of an era for me as a teacher and the journalism program at my school.
The students who just marched out of Reliant Arena (Go Texans!) were the last of a special group of kids that first graced my doorway in 2002 as freshmen. Back in those days I still had a wet darkroom, still taught in a classroom without a lab and did not have enough computers for each student. But more importantly, we were in trouble. After the class of 2000 graduated, the entire journalism program went through some tough times, and I questioned whether I wanted to continue teaching the subject or ask to be reassigned to teach social studies.
But then something magical happened. A group of kids hit the door of my classroom, but more than that they pierced my heart. They taught me how to be a better teacher by making me want to be the teacher they needed me to be. They wanted to do great things. They had drive, determination, ability and most importantly compassion and friendship with each other.
Together we set goals for the journalism department. And for every goal set, I had to become a stronger, more knowledgeable teacher. Then that first group grew up, graduated and passed it on to the next group. New, tougher goals were set. And the cycle went on.
But today, the last of that group of kids has left the building. The future will be set by students who may have been influenced by them, but will not be a part of them. The graduates of 2004-2009 had a shared bond that lasted for more than just one or two years. They had a special mix of talents, traits and friendship that made them strive to be more than just average. They refused to be forgotten.
I know that there will be other groups of kids in the future and they will contribute their own verses. But this was a special time and I will miss them as they go out to seek their futures in the wider world.
Before the ceremony began, a fellow teacher told me that she would miss this. She is moving from high school speech teacher to elementary librarian. I think she’s right. This is the moment that makes it all worth it. This is why we stay late, come early, write letters of recommendation, help our students with projects for other teacher’s classes, give up our Friday nights for football, go to performances, prom and events. Those high school teachers that don’t go to graduation are missing out on the best moments of being a high school teacher. This is the finish line, the end zone, the award ceremony.
Good luck to the Class of 2009 as you go out to find what fate has in store for you.
“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” – Mr. Keating, Dead Poets Society
PS – I did get a little bit misty-eyed typing this blog post. Guess I just can’t get through a graduation without becoming a little emotional.
Alright Class of 2010, as one of my outgoing seniors always said – “It’s on, time to bring it.”