Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Things have been a little crazy the last two weeks, but it’s been a fun kind of hectic.  On Thursday, I went and watched the Juniors I taught last year take the stage and graduate.  I joked recently that the end of the spring semester is full of so many fun and memorable moments that they trick teachers into coming back the next fall. 

School years really do have predictable cycles.  In August, everything is full of promise and possibility.  THIS is going to be the best year yet.  You will not make the mistakes you made last year.  I used to go a little nuts buying school supplies because I have a weird obsession with a really good writing utensil.  It’s the year I will get organized!  It’s the year I will not let the little things get to me!  It’s the year that busted project will finally work out!

Then, October happens.  And it’s just the worst.  October is my favorite month to live in Austin, but somehow it’s also the time when the “new” has worn off the school year for you and the students.  Nothing is working.  We’ve all stopped being on our best “company behavior” if, in fact, we ever were.  Everyone is annoying everyone else, and there are endless talks of benchmark testing and data, and we are sure Thanksgiving will never come. Oh, and Christmas?  Christmas is a fantasy we all have kind of stopped believing in.  We’d all like to tell Virginia a few real hard truths about Santa Claus.

But spring is how they get you. As long as I didn’t have to sponsor prom, I loved prom.  The year I sponsored prom, I *might* have made a male student cry over logistical details because I did not want to party with students all night.  I stand by that.  But, every other year, it is kind of fun to see students so dressed up and dancing to–ironically–many of the same songs I danced to at my proms.  The greatest hits of the mid ’90s have some real staying power.  Or maybe there is only one prom DJ in the world and he has been working steadily for 25 years.

After prom, there is a mini-October of final exams and determining whether or not students will have to take summer school, and grading a whole lot of essays as quickly as possible, but graduation is a real mind-eraser that puts you in a good mood as you wrap up the year wearing polyester gowns.

This year, I didn’t have to wear a polyester gown because I wasn’t on staff, which also meant that I didn’t have to figure out the stupid cowl thing that I never, ever got right.  I don’t know how Batman wears one of those things. 

Backstage looks like this:


Everyone is milling around in highly flammable gowns and fancy shoes.  Some of them are a blur of activity.  Mostly, they are standing around chatting as some of them feel nervous, some are excited, some are scared, and many are feeling their own unique mix of those three feelings. 

I love it because it is so full of promise.  Last year, when students found out I wasn’t coming back, many seniors seemed kind of bummed that I was leaving, and I kept pointing out that they weren’t either.  I was leaving with them to walk into a new future that has been unpredictable but mostly really, really good.

This year, as I came back to see the last of my “kids” (the ones I taught for a full year, though I still feel a certain attachment to the ones I had for 12 weeks this year) graduate, it really drove home the idea that the school where I worked for four years is no longer my school.  I still tell stories about that place, and I still refer to it pretty often as “my school” or “our school.” But with these students graduating, it really does feel like one of the last few remaining ties has been severed.

Last Thursday, though, as I heard each of their names called, and as I sat with three former students in the audience, I felt strongly connected to the people that I taught.  I clapped for each of them and thought about the things I remembered most.  The time Mileena saw “The Great Gatsby” and kept talking about how they didn’t show Myrtle’s “boob flap scene.” The story JD wrote that won me over completely.  Watching Jorge find newer and weirder ways to quietly amuse himself.  Ivette telling me that she wanted Daisy to end up with Gatsby, but that she feared “he was headed for a catastrophe.” Third period dance parties, telling 5th period to stand up and “wiggle their dongles.” Deciding out loud and often that Allen was my favorite.  It’s this intense hour where I reflect on the times I’ve shared with these kids and I feel incredibly, wonderfully, heart-burstingly proud of them.

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