Tonight, I laughed so much that I cried. Our senior class held its annual Mr. Pioneer competition/fundraiser, and although I had seen rehearsals, I was not prepared for how funny and charming the boys in the first act were. More than once, I had to take off my glasses to wipe away the tears as two of my former students lip synced a duet to songs from La La Land, Dirty Dancing, and Beauty and the Beast. I had both of the boys when they were freshmen, and even then, they were already two of the nicest young men that I had ever taught. And now as seniors, they begin the final stretch towards graduation.
Our Mr. Pioneer talent show is the first in a series of three events that my colleague and I help to plan in our roles as senior class advisors. Our next event—senior prom!—is less than a month away, and then it will only be a few short weeks after that until graduation.
I have taught freshmen every year that I’ve been teaching. And as I tell parents on Back-to-School night, one of the things I love about teaching 9th grade is the opportunity to help students with the transition to high school. As senior class advisor, then, there’s something special about being part of their lives as they get ready leave high school to become freshmen once again.
Ironically, being a senior class advisor wasn’t a role I sought, or one that I ever pictured myself doing. But watching the students on stage tonight, I felt proud of the young men my students had become. Here they were, putting themselves out there, in front of their peers, allowing themselves to be vulnerable in way I never, ever would have when I was their age. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the student tonight who played a song on his guitar—a song he wrote himself and dedicated to his father. There were hundreds of his fellow students in the crowd, and not a single sound could be heard in that auditorium save the quiet strums of guitar strings.
As I watched all the boys on stage tonight—some I had taught, others I hadn’t—I was reminded again how teaching is a privilege. We only get students for such a short amount of time—only four years in the grand scheme of things. But it’s an honor to spend this time with them, and not just because we get to teach them. It’s an honor to simply bear witness, to see them as the young people they are now, and perhaps more importantly, the people they are on their way to becoming.
Earlier this afternoon, before I headed back to school for the show, I sat in two of my sons’ elementary school classrooms for parent-teacher conferences. Both of the boys’ teachers had nothing but positive things to say about them; their grades and work habits and performance assessments were generally good, in some cases even outstanding.
Yet years from now, I doubt I’ll remember the 4s and 3s on their report cards. I won’t remember what reading level they were on, or what score they got on that latest math mid-module test. I’ll remember, instead, that they were happy and kind—that my six-year-old loves to play “jackpot” with the reckless joy that only children know, and that my nine-year-old always volunteers to clean up and help his classmates whenever he can.
I don’t know exactly what type of young men my boys will be when they reach their own senior year of high school. But there are at least two things I wish for them—one, that they are as brave and confident as the boys who stood on stage tonight, and two, that they are still as happy and kind as they were on the day that their parents sat in too-small chairs across from teachers who loved them.
This post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.