Last night was Grad Night, an apparently long-standing tradition at MTHS. The seniors and the teachers get together for an evening of dinner, a slideshow, and general end-of-the-year emotional stuff, including awards presented by the seniors to the teachers who are present (about half the staff). Most of them were joke awards, but they’re all quite congenial. It’s a fun way to glimpse how the students perceive the adults.
My award is pictured above. The student who presented it said to the crowd, “If you’ve ever been in a play or musical, you know that although this teacher is a very loveable person, if you do something wrong, she’ll call you on it and make you work until you do it right.” It provoked much laughter, including from me, as I went up to get a certificate and a little gold trophy. And so I am the proud recipient of “The Caged Tiger Award.”
This morning, with the little trophy twinkling on my desk, I mentioned going to Grad Night to my Humanities class.
“Did you cry?” they asked.
“No,” I replied.
“I heard everyone cried,” they said.
“I’m not really a crier,” I said.
And I’m not. As do all teachers, I’ve said good-bye to hundreds, probably even thousands of students by now. It’s part of the job. You get to know them, you do what you can for them, then you both move on. I think of former students often and wonder how they are. Some individuals and some groups stand out still, and there are some student-memories (and one particular DPJH dvd) that are very dear to my heart. But good-byes are said annually and I prefer to stay in control of my emotions. I’ve become very good at not crying.
I like that this group of students respects me enough to see me as a fierce director. I’ve worked with a lot of them in the last two years, and this is a fantastic class as a whole. There are kindred spirits in the bunch, and I will miss many of them next year. But I’m not going to cry over my little trophy or over pictures of them as second graders, especially since I’ll be seeing them all again for graduation on Sunday. Grad Night will probably fade to the general blur of yet another last week of another school year.
There are those moments that stand out, those times that you can point to and say “This. This is why I keep teaching. This is why I’ll come back next year and do all of this again.” What I will remember from this week is one of my boys – my Macduff, my Jack Worthing, my Schroeder – coming into my room on the second day of his summer break, hiding something green behind his back.
We were in the middle of check-in, and he crossed to me ignoring the chorus of happy hellos from the juniors and sophomores who were left behind with me.
“I wanted to give you something,” he said. Then he held out a feathered and beaded and beglittered mask.
I exclaimed with delight when I saw it, as did the other students. “Try it on!” they called, and I did. I promised it would go on the wall next to my desk where the masks I collect from my travels hang. Then I hugged that tall, tall boy.
Then, later, when I was alone in my classroom, I opened the card he had given me too.
And I read it.
And I started to tear up, just a little.
Then I tucked away the card somewhere safe, and got ready for my next class.