So, yesterday was the last day of school, during which I felt all the feelings. I was breathtakingly sad at having to say goodbye to just a magnificent group of kids, and at the same time overwhelmed with pride at the little adults I've had the privilege of watching them grown into. Truly, it's one of the greatest perks of my job, getting to see the transformation that happens. And it happens in all of them, just maybe not at the same speed, or they began with different starting places. My job is to teach them English and prepare them for high school. Neither thing can be done completely, since no one's ever really ready for that next big step, but I take it seriously. I truly want to be some small part of their ability to move on to bigger and better things and feel prepared. And equipped. And if not completely ready, at least as ready as the kids they'll be meeting when they get there.
Part of why yesterday was so emotional for me was that as I said my last little piece, I could see it in them: they are ready. They soaked up my last words to them like sponges and it just means a crazy amount to me. 14 year olds are notorious (and excellent) ignorers, so to have a captive audience as I tried to articulate how much I love them, and how proud of each of them I am, and how I'm going to miss them like crazy, and that even on days when we were grumpy with one another I've considered it a joy to get to teach them. I told them about how hard it is to say goodbye, since I won't get to see them in the halls, or tease them when they get the name of a planet in Star Wars wrong (Coruscant being referred to as Croissant was fuel for entertainment until the very end--that's how nerdy things sometimes get. I'm good with it.).
I got to tell them that I love my job. I've loved it since the first day I started. I've loved it when I didn't do it so well, and on days when things went better than I could have ever planned. But I got to share with them the other truth in that: they have made me love my job more. So. Much. More. Crappy days seemed less crappy, hard lessons were a little easier to teach (and learn) with them. They have brought out the best version of myself as a teacher and as a person, and for that I am truly grateful.
So, it got emotional.
As overly sentimental as it all may seem, I just really mean it. And, as I told them, I hope yesterday wasn't the first time they've felt it. Even if things weren't perfect, I hope they could tell that getting to be their teacher has been an honor that I'm so grateful for.
There are some brand new ninth graders with some giant-sized dreams headed to high school, and I am so excited for them and this new season. Before they left, I shared with them one of my favorite children's books, What Do You Do With an Idea? and as their (our) eyes watered while I was reading (criss-cross-applesauce-style--because they weren't too grown for it yet, dang it), I thought about how much I hope they know that their crazy, Cat Lady, super-nerd, 8th grade English teacher is just their biggest cheerleader. That I know 14 isn't too young to have big, crazy dreams, and to chase after them, and that if they ever need me, they know where to find me.
I'll leave you with that fantastic book, which, by the way, has some of the most beautiful illustrations. And a caution: look out for the class of 2019. They're a special bunch.
One day, I had an idea.
"Where did it come from? Why is it here?" I wondered, "What do you do with an idea?" At first, I didn't think much of it. It seemed kind of strange and fragile. I didn't know what to do with it. So I just walked away from it. I acted like it didn't belong to me. But it followed me. I worried what others would think. What would people say about my idea? I kept it to myself. I hid it away and didn't talk about it. I tried to act like everything was the same as it was before my idea showed up. But there was something magical about my idea. I had to admit, I felt better and happier when it was around. I showed it to other people even though I was afraid of what they would say. I was afraid that if people saw it, they would laugh at it. I was afraid they would think it was silly. And many of them did. They said it was no good. They said it was too weird. They said it was a waste of time and that it would never become anything. And, at first, I believed them. I actually thought about giving up on my idea. I almost listened to them. But then I realized, what do they really know? This is MY idea, I thought. No one knows it like I do. And it's okay if it's difficult, and weird, and maybe a little crazy. I decided to protect it, to care for it...I worked with it, I played with it. But most of all, I gave it my attention. My idea grew and grew. And so did my love for it. I built it a new house, one with and open roof where it could look up at the stars--a place where it could be safe to dream. I liked being with my idea. It made me feel more alive, like I could do anything. It encouraged me to think big...and then, to think bigger. It showed me how to walk on my hands. "Because," it said, "it is good to have the ability to see things differently." I couldn't imagine my life without it. Then, one day, something amazing happened. My idea changed right before my very eyes. It spread its wings, took flight, and burst into the sky.I don't know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn't just a part of me anymore...it was now a part of everything. And then, I realized what you do with an idea... You change the world.