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28 May 2007

Notes On The Week That Was, Part II (Why I Teach)


* Well, this is why I teach. Take all your classroom idiocy, your crypto-thugdom, and your senior apathy. It can't ever match the power of the really fine moments, the really fine kids.

Though I was running on fumes by this evening, the Underclassmen Awards ceremony was truly one of the best events I've been a part of as a teacher - top 5, easy.

To begin with, the format is wonderful, because only students who are going to win something get invited, along with their families. Some say the other students should see these awards during school hours, so they might take away some motivation from it. But this way of doing things allows for an efficient program, and also allows for relaxation: you know you only have good kids in the auditorium, kids who want to be there (and their parents, natch).

For me, the real thrill of the evening came in watching so many of the kids who have meant so much to me in the last couple of years walk across the stage and receive numerous rewards. And it was my privilege to hand them the awards and shake their hands. What an honor - what an absolute honor.

Seated to my left was a girl who has been in my classes, either English or yearbook, for parts of three years (I'll call her Lizzy). It was her job, as student government vice-president, to introduce the speakers, and I was proud to watch how poised and professional she was. Lizzy wouldn't look my in the eye for a while the day I announced I was leaving. She waited until she'd finished crying.

And maybe the best moment was when the girl I had quietly lobbied for as Best All-Around Sophomore - I'll call her Jess - actually won the award (I didn't know who had won until I turned the plaques over just before presenting them - when I saw she had won that award, and the award for highest sophomore grade-point average, I wanted to pump my fist). Jess is everything you could ask for in a student - bright, inquisitive, cheerful, polite, popular among her peers and yet an individual who always does the right thing. She's a pretty girl who refuses to get hung up on boyfriend dramas, and she's humble and considerate of even the unpopular kids in class. I told her Mama that I don't believe in cloning, but I would make an exception for her daughter. Way to go Jess.

Another of my students who I've had for parts of three years also won several awards, but most impressively it was announced he had a painting that won a Congressional contest award, and the painting is currently hanging in the nation's Capitol building. In June he gets to go to a reception in D.C., and he has also earned a $10,000 art scholarship. And knowing this boy, I can promise you he will one day do the humanities proud, in a way that will cut against the grain of the reigning elitist, po-mo schools of thought.

Not bad for a little ole' school. Not bad at all.


*I had my last observation today, and it went well, especially since my worst second-period headache was suspended for the day (I'll thank myself for that one). I'm beat, though. Happy, but thoroughly beat.

There are two more weeks of school left, plus three workdays. Of course, when you are in charge of a fall yearbook, the summer is never truly your own until the book is finally put to rest. I don't have to finish it off this summer, since I'm leaving and all, but I will (cue martyr's music now).

For now, though, with so many thoughts and emotions and responsibilities flying at me, I'm content to be content for a few days.

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