With five teacher/advisors volunteering to chaperone the 8th graders on their annual trip to Washington, DC, it seemed only right for me to step up and sign up to sub in their absence. I got Andrea's 7th grade Science/Math class and Meghan's Junior IB Bio I class. We got off to a bit of a slow start in the 7th grade Pre-Algebra class as the 7th graders who were in the predominantly 8th grade Algebra 1 class downstairs were apparently baking, and there was a tidal wave of enthusiasm for the idea of our doing the same despite the fact that we had neither ingredients nor oven. But it wasn't long before I was tossing dry-erase markers to students to go put up their answers to the homework on the board before checking them over.
(a speech given in the Honor Roll Assembly)
Good morning, everyone! I want to begin by thanking Student Council for inviting me to talk to you all today. I’m grateful for the chance to do so, and will do my best to live up to your faith in me.
Before I jump in, I just want to tell any of you who might want to engage with me about anything I say today, whether in person or online at the school’s blog, that I would love to have that conversation and I would love to learn from and with you.
What I want to say to you today is entitled:
Honor Roll of the Soul
It was a beautiful morning, and my favourite Humanities 7 class of 2009-2010 was having one of those random and deep conversations so typical of all my favourite Humanities 7 classes, whatever the year. We were talking about the notion of specialness when one student suddenly straightened and leaned forward and said, “Yes! I’ve always wondered about that! Because if we’re all special, doesn’t that mean no one is special?”
For teachers, the end of the year is always a time for reflection. My students and I talk through how we can continue to improve the middle school experience for next year’s kids. Ghosts of former students that occasionally materialize throughout the year, looking over my shoulder while I’m teaching and reminding me of a basic truth they taught me, begin to gather together as if for Reunion. The AP French class that made a music video of the reggae song “Femme Libérée.” The 9th graders who raised money for a special doll that Franklin Medical Center could use with little kids to help them understand what was happening with them. The French 3 student who caught fire when she learned to use the tenacity she brought to being a superb soccer goalkeeper to improve her schoolwork. The girl who could laugh at the four-year senior dinner as she looked back on her 9th grade year when she would knock softly on my apartment door nearly every night at 11:00 or so and say, “Bill, I can’t sleep.” The rock band that pulled off “Stairway to Heaven” with three different groups of kids playing each of the three sections, Emily the guitarist holding things together through each transition. Literally hundreds more students hover above me, asking if I remember them, smiling to learn that I do.
Ghosts of current students, too, fill my mind – ghosts of who they used to be. When you teach middle school, incredible growth almost, but not quite, ceases to amaze you because it happens every single year. During the first week, I used to have to turn my right ear toward one student and stand within six inches of her to hear what she was saying; now, I can look back to April and remember her reading poetry to a room full of friends and their families with a voice audible in every corner. The Humanities 7 class, from being a roomful of relative strangers, has coalesced into a model community of writers with extraordinary talent and a high level of honest supportiveness. The drummer in the rock band used to need me to write her parts for her; now, I just give her the basic beat and off she goes! There are stories all of us could (and do) tell about every single student. Those of you who can attend our 8th Grade Moving Up Ceremony will hear many of those stories, and you will understand why our eyes fill up at this time every year.