Today was graduation, a day filled with choked up hugs and misty-eyed hand shakes. My emotional response to this beautiful day surprises me every year. This was my most dramatic graduation yet, for a class filled with kids I taught in the 9th grade and/or the 11th grade. These seniors were my freshmen in the second year of teaching - the first year when I was actually good - and seeing them mature over these four years has been a remarkable experience.
The moment that encapsulated what I was feeling today occurred when a colleague was staring at me, smiling. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I just love looking at you today. Your face is just the picture of love right now. You love these kids so much."
And I do. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that this day was one of the happiest I've ever experienced. I'm getting a lump in my throat thinking about these kids and how much they've meant to me.
Giving Bobby a hug as he cried in the crowded auditorium entryway.
Finding Ebony, telling her how proud I was of her, and hugging her for a full sixty seconds.
Demetria sneaking up from behind, hugging me from the back, after which I told her what an intelligent and beautiful young woman she had become.
My favorite thug boy, Davon, the poet, and giving him the one-armed hug while I made him promise to follow his dreams of becoming a rapper and to keep me in the loop.
I finally met Elle, whose journal I've been reading for years, even before I figured out her daughter was a student at my school. Recognizing me, she approached, said how nice it was to meet me, and gave me a big hug, while T-Dawg (who is going to George Washington University!) snuck up behind. I hugged T-Dawg and I made her promise to come visit.
I found Brittany, a girl who had a baby the first quarter of her junior year, when I was her teacher. She failed that quarter, understandably, but came back and pulled 90s the rest of the year - and you'd never meet a more dignified, put-together, and responsibile young lady. I told her how proud I was and met her kid for the first time.
I found LaKendra, the girl with sickle cell anemia who doctors told would have eighteen months to live when she was a 9th grader, and hugged her. She looked so good, so healthy, and is going to design school in NYC!
Not to mention Julius, and Josh, and Kiara, and Andrew, and Jordan, and Tiffany...
I could go on and on. Suffice to say, it was an amazing day, one that made me immensely proud.
1. I clapped so much today that my hands are sore. 350 kids graduated, and I've got to clap for each, at least a little, but then I've got to go a little nuts with the kids that I really like.
2. A bunch of us English teachers ate at City Cafe after the graduation and stayed there for four hours, reminiscing about the class.
3. I had to work at the restaurant right afterwards. Graduation was at 9am, but they wanted teachers there at 7:30am. So it's been a long, long day. I so need to sleep in tomorrow.
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