As this school year comes to an end, I'm having all kinds of feelings. This happens every year in June, but this year it's especially magnified because my son graduated from high school.
I know it won't be his final graduation,and he's not leaving home yet - he's taking a gap year to stay home, work, and take a few classes - but it is still a big deal. I remember my own high school graduation, and how I cried inconsolably, thinking about how things would never be the same again. I knew it would be a departure from my home town and my classmates, and I was both scared and looking forward to that change.
Graduation has made me very reflective about my son's school pre-k to 12 education, and thinking about how I am so very thankful for so many wonderful teachers.
My son started preschool not knowing any English (we spoke only Spanish at home) and still in diapers. He was so nervous and anxious about being there that my husband had to attend preschool with him for a few days until he would be allowed to leave. Thanks to his amazing preschool teachers, Dolly, Krista, and Gabe, his adjustment was short. Soon he was learning English as well as some Korean words from his new Korean preschool friends, who were also learning some Spanish from him. I would drop him off every day, and he would run towards the large wooden blocks and start building airplanes, boats or cars. When that graduation happened, I cried like a baby.
Kindergarten was a new and wonderful experience, with so much creative learning happening thanks to Ms.Wilcox and Ms. Mastroianni. And there was room for creativity, which was a beautiful thing - not the kindergarten experience many kids have today. His teachers cultivated his literacy and he published his first book, an important part of the elementary curriculum at this school.
While my son had many great teachers, two especially stand out from his elementary experience after K. In second grade we were lucky that he had Ms.Mattone, who allowed my son to sit at a desk when everyone was sitting in circle on the floor, to do pull-ups in the hallway, and to become her tech assistant in class. She didn't love him at first, she told me, but she always found something to love about each student she had - and eventually she found that about him as well. In 5th and 6th grade, Mr,Prather let my son explore on Khan Academy, seeing his potential as a bright young boy who needed something different. In my mind, he understood my son and didn't try to make him a different person, and because of Mr.Prather, my son finished elementary school prepared for the next step.
I was worried about what my son's middle school years would be like for him, especially because I was teaching there. But again, he had teachers who managed to bring out the best in him. There are too many more to name from 7-12 - I wish I could thank them all individually for helping him along in their way. They each contributed something to my son's education, whether it was pushing him to do better, allowing him the space he needed, or seeing the potential in him.
At a retirement party I went to last week, several people commented on how much the retiring teachers cared about her students, and I thought about how much all the teachers I know and work with ALL care so much about the students. Teachers are pretty amazing people, with the capacity to care for kids every year, over and over, despite so many challenges and issues. Every year we wipe the slate clean and start over again. We have eternal hope for our students - we must, in order to do our jobs well. We cry when our students leave and rejoice when we heard good news about them. Years later, we wonder about students who have moved on.
After an emotional night at graduation, I feel so grateful to all of my son's teachers. And I am grateful to teachers everywhere, for all the love, care, concern, tough love, pushing, guiding, correcting, crying, and laughing they all did and do. So thankful for all of you. Enjoy your summer, enjoy your time off, your families and the things you like to do, and wipe the slate clean for a fresh start in the fall.