Graduation Finishes Off Year

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.”


  1. I will march into my 20th graduation on Tuesday afternoon. I don’t share your feelings for this group. I felt that way last year as it was a great group of yearbook students. This year was a mess and I’m glad to put the book away. I’m still not sure I can pay my printing bill.

    Next year will be my last year. I am going to leave teaching in 2010 and look for a new adventure. This one has run its course, and it’s time for younger blood to take over.

    • We too are going to come up about $2K short, but I don’t blame my staff. You can make a great book that students may choose not to buy. That is not something we can control. I stopped getting upset about that about five years ago.

      I’m glad you’re sticking with it for one more year. I love reading your blog and hope to continue to do so. But if you are burnt out, then of course you should look for something that inspires your passion.

  2. Thanks for the kind words…

    My students are partially to blame for the deficit in that they did not sell ads nor did they push the books in the school. I was the only one out there telling kids to buy the book. One of my yearbook students didn’t even buy the book.

    It takes so much energy to do this job and to do it well. I see other faculty members who don’t work nearly as hard as I do, but they still get paid the same. I could not do that. I want excellence for myself and my students.

  3. omg! you made me get teary-eyed. you know, i don’t care how long its been since i’ve graduated from Galena Park, I will always keep those memories dear to my heart. We shared so many laughs, tears, and times that will never happen again. Sometimes, I still can’t believe I’m actually not there.
    I helped my brother get ready today. I helped him with his hat and gown. It suddenly made me realize that this would be the last time I’d touch a black and gold tassel…the last time I’d hold a Galena Park commencement program.
    I loved every minute ot it, and I’ll never forget it. From now, until where life takes me, and you’ll be in the know every step of the way, Bing!

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