Thursday, September 2, 2010

Four Faces

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with technology.

Three years ago I was a sophomore English teacher. The significance is that for the first time in my career there are no students in the halls who know me as their current of former teacher. While I love my current position there is a bit of sadness in this thought. So last week, when I walked down the main hall I smiled when I noticed that in the pictures of the “2010 Seniors of the Year” the visage of a former student was smiling back at me. Josh was named the Speech and Communications Senior of the Year: no small task in a school with ten state speech championships in the last eleven years. I knew he was a talented speaker, and was a joy to have in class, and I must admit, my chest swelled a bit knowing that I was his sophomore English teacher. Then I came back to reality when I remembered that we were blessed with Jan Heiteen, one of the top speech coaches in the nation.

My eyes scanned the pictures until they met another familiar face; Casey was named top PE student. I remember Casey’s happy, hard-working demeanor as well as the accolades she received as a top cross country runner. But this wasn’t sports…it was P.E. Often times, athletes have a blasé attitude towards P.E.; their physical exertion was saved for their sport, not P.E. class. Yet here was Casey, recognized for her leadership and exemplary behavior. The same behavior she exhibited in my class--every day.

I scanned another row, and…what do you know. Roxana: “Student of the Year” for Family and Consumer Science. Like Casey and Josh, Roxana was also a “pleasure to have in class” (How’s that for a cliché). I did some work with Roxana’s senior Intro to Teaching class last year. It was rewarding to see her blossom into a poised, articulate, enthusiastic teaching candidate (She is thankfully majoring in elementary education now), after knowing her as an effervescent sophomore.

Wow Three of my students were “seniors of the year” unless…

There was Amanda. Shy, hard-working Amanda, named Special Services Student of the Year. My thoughts went back to seventh period sophomore “Skills” (always hated that term) three years ago. Amanda: always making eye contact, always pen in hand, always careful notes, always smiling when I said good bye at the end of the period.

Four. I had four students on the board. No small feat considering we have over 3,000 students, and nearly thirty English teachers. As I walked down the hall, my pride was tempered with two thoughts. First, while all receiving good grades, none of them were necessarily the best writers I had in class. Second, Could it be that perhaps I was the one who was fortunate to have them?

Please do not think that the purpose of this post is to gloat over something that, frankly, I didn’t earn. The point is this: we teachers, especially in the fragmented world of high schools, often look at our students through the lens of our discipline.After all, I wasn’t teaching honors sophomore English. I had two sections of “regular” and two of “Skills.” We have to remember, though, that an “average” math student might be a brilliant writer; a struggling history student might be an accomplished cellist. And the list goes on.

Josh, Casey, Roxana, and Amanda were part of the “last class” I taught, and I was fortunate to have these special kids. My only regret is that it took pictures on a wall for me to realize how talented and truly remarkable these kids are. We all need to keep that in minds with all of our students.

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