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Year 8

You know the saying that a picture says a thousand words?

Well, take a look at this one, a snapshot taken by one of my school’s teachers during Tuesday’s graduation ceremony . . .

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This photo sums up what teaching means to me, and it fits my mood as I reflect on my eighth year of teaching.

The young man in this photo was my student two years ago, when I was still teaching sophomores.  I’d met him the year before when his best friend was a student in my class.  She was a year ahead of him, and they often walked to class together.  His teacher was in the room beside mine.

It was during those brief conversations that friendship grew.  Little did we know at the time, but the following year, this young man found himself on my roster, officially my student.

He was such a joy to teach.  His positive attitude and smile always managed to turn my mood around if I was having a bad morning.  His class was a good one, but they could get rambunctious.  He always had my back.  If you know anything about teaching, you understand that having an ally in the classroom can be especially helpful when your class is a bit spirited.

Ahem.

Later that year, I was nominated for a prestigious school award.  Some of my students were interviewed as part of the application process – this sweet guy among that group.  When I watched the video later, I was moved to tears.  Listening to him describe how he had not liked people very much until I’d opened up a new world for him through the books we read in class was illuminating and humbling.  He said that he’d gained a better perspective of others because of the characters in those books.

Just wow.

Even after the school year ended and new classes entered my room, this student continued to come by and visit.  He’d also speak to me in the hallways as he passed by, on his way to his junior and senior classes.

Then Tuesday arrived . . . the BIG day . . . when he and 270+ of his classmates donned their caps and gowns and prepared to walk the stage.

We teachers had front row seats in a section set off to the side, and as I saw him approach, his eyes met mine, and that smile he’d become famous for stretched across his face.  I got up and gave him a huge hug, congratulating him on a job well done.

I’m emotional as I type this – even two days later.  He wasn’t the only student I hugged that evening (I’ll share other photos soon), but the picture above is the one that captures four years’ worth of trust and camaraderie.

THIS is what teaching is about.

It’s not about the daily lessons, developed according to certain standards and whatnot.  While those are important in their own right, teaching can’t be summed up by them.

It’s not about a test score or grade point average.  Those are man’s ways of measuring so-called “success.”

No, teaching is about creating bonds with students so that they will leave school better than when they arrived.

In the process, we teachers are forever changed as well, newer and better versions of ourselves – upgraded, so to speak, by the young men and women who graced our classrooms.

God speed, Class of 2018.  May you never forget the big picture – that you are cherished by those who were honored to walk alongside you these past four years – that we will always remember how you grew in stature, ready to take on the world.

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