My first group of seventh graders graduated tonight. The group that broke me in. The group that inspired me to plan lessons until two am. The group that left me drinking at three in the afternoon. The group that made me laugh and cry all in the same day. I was their first middle school teacher. It was the year I met Debbie, Tim, and AJ. I had many of them again in tenth grade as well.
I went to last year's graduation and watched my first year eighth graders walk the stage. It was bittersweet as I myself never walked across the stage. Ironically, I failed English. I can give the sob story about a teacher who lost a important paper and how I found it over the summer, graded with an A, and cried. However, I never should have let my final grade for the year come down to one grade. Can I at least point out the my final grade was 64.3? (65 was passing in my school.) How's that for an "F You Kerri Arnold" from Mrs. Moira Dean? Anyway. A few reflections:
* I cried with them as they walked in. A few left line to give me hugs. Until I became a teacher, I never knew that sense of positive influence.
* I wonder what I actually "taught" them. Do they even remember what books I covered with them? I had to stop and think about it. Do they even remember a noun from a verb? What do they remember from my class?
* When I first started teaching, I worried about being "cool." I pretended I didn't but I did. I thought I could be the one to love them into being good. That does not work in any school, urban or otherwise. Kids are kids. People are people. If they can push you over, they will.
* As I became seasoned, I worried more about being fair. Was my classroom pass policy fair? Did I read papers and grade fairly? Did I grade according to standard or what I knew they were capable of? Was my discipline style fair?
* I still worry how to fit in grammar and spelling. Sigh.
* My favorite compliments:
"You really pushed me. Thank you."
"You helped me so much."
"You said you would be here and you are."
"You always find the positive in everything."
"She is one classy lady." (Obviously, I fooled one kid.)
* I am so glad they stopped using that lame ass Vitamin C "Graduation" song and switched back to "Stand By Me."
*The students I had the biggest love/hate relationship with hugged me the hardest tonight.
I think what I taught them might be different than what they learned.