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The Last Class

June 23, 2014

It is June. Summer weather is finally upon us. A perceptible shift in attitude can be felt as people’s vacation plans grow closer to becoming reality. It is a season of beaches and weddings and college students returning home. And, as it happens each year, it is when another high school class graduates.

This year, though, it is not just another class that is graduating. It is my last class, the one I had four years ago as eighth graders. This is the group of youngsters who helped me write the final chapter of my forty-year career in the classroom, and a special group it was.

It was a fitting class to be my last, one that left me with so many fond memories, one with so many unforgettable students — good scholars, creative thinkers, free spirits, and kind-hearted souls. And some of them were amongst the best young writers I’d ever taught.

This means quite a bit to me, and not just because I was an English teacher. Through their writing, I learned much about these developing minds as they struggled to make sense of this crazy world. I witnessed their growing sense of how they fit into it and the many possible paths that may lie ahead of them. I got to know them, and that is why I will remember them even as they move on into their futures.

I saved copies of many of their compositions, and looking back at them makes me both proud and happy. They wrote about a great variety of topics, often pushing themselves far beyond what could have been just one more school assignment. They put their hearts and souls into their words, writing about 9/11, what it is like to experience the injustice of prejudice, the true meaning of Memorial Day, how it’s not easy being green. They listened to me ramble on about the road to real learning, what John Dewey said and the kitchen table vs. the file cabinet. They visited the Little Rock Guys with regularity, depositing the results of their ruminations for me to marvel over. I hope they know how much I appreciated their efforts. I hope they know how much I miss them.

I was fortunate to be able to watch their continued growth through high school. Some of them became part of the track team on which I was a volunteer coach. Others continued writing for the school newspaper or in the literary magazine. Chance encounters revealed the many changes they had undergone, and I couldn’t help but think of the profound ones looming ahead as they become adults.

Part of me is saddened, for their departure is a symbol of my own. I had felt a connectedness to the school and the community that I’m not sure will remain. Tomorrow they will walk together one final time to receive diplomas and venture forth into the next chapters of their lives. I know that as they make their own way in the world, my last year together with them will fade in their memory. But in the end, I feel most fortunate to have had the opportunity to share, even if for just that short time, a part of their journey .

class of 2010

 

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