As part of our middle school’s Founders’ Day tradition, the five- and six-year Seniors are invited to join us for lunch out by Bonnie’s House. They always seem to arrive radiating happiness, excited to be part of what many of them say is one of the favourite memories of middle school. This year’s kids were no exception, and they sat down together with a group of middle schoolers reminiscing about their own middle school years and asking this year’s kids about what they’ve been doing together. They added notes and signatures to recently tie-dyed t-shirts and played games. And they asked me if I remembered them.
I remember early in the year, after the first of many long philosophical discussions in Humanities 7, Clara saying “Who ever thought little seventh graders could have a discussion like this?!” with pure delight and pride infusing every word. I remember doing a debate project with The Children’s Storefront, and running into a major snag when repeated snowstorms made it impossible for us to Skype without running into a special day off for our students. It was Claire L. who came up with the idea of using YouTube to enable an asynchronous debate, which prompted my colleague Steve Bergen at Storefront to observe, “Sometimes, Plan B is better than Plan A.” I remember Charlotte coming up to me and somewhat hesitantly and timidly asking about joining Rock Band. I remember their poetry.
I also remember Nolka as a Senior in full Slam mode as she performed her brilliant poem on being true to herself come hell or high water. I remember just last week Clara sending the school an email announcing that our GSA would be participating in Northampton Pride for the first time ever. I remember Mckim performing a spoken word in housemeeting early this year to focus us on racism. I remember Charlotte captivating the audience at this spring’s Family Weekend show as she absolutely nailed the incredibly difficult vocal for “Wait for the Moment” by Vulfpeck. I carry with me so much more, including Claire’s observation that we are a feminist school that incorporates multiple feminisms; given the patriarchy imbedded in the cultures in which we all live, perhaps Charlotte’s own observation that we are all “frustrated feminists” brings those multiple feminisms together. The six years these kids have been students here have seen phenomenal growth in our school, and I don’t think that’s just random timing.
The five and six-year students in the picture below are about to graduate from college. I can still remember as if it were yesterday the day they showed up a little early for Founders’ Day and ran down to the softball field to play a game with neither bat nor ball as they waited for the middle schoolers to show up. I can still remember as if it were yesterday their sense of pride in building a close and caring community as 7th graders that respected the individuality of each person. I said then, as I say of my students pretty much every year, that it keeps my hope alive to think of people like them taking their place and shaping the world. And now that moment is imminent - in fact, some of them may even have already graduated. And I wonder. What do they now hope for themselves? for the world? I imagine that being true to themselves and doing everything they can to enable people around them to feel the same way is part of those hopes. It’s what we wish for every graduate of Stoneleigh-Burnham.
As we look ahead to inevitable endings, that sense of anchoring our ongoing growth in the shared experiences we had and the community we built lends a sense of continuity and hope. I’m going to miss this year’s students, just as I do every other class I’ve ever taught. I’m going to miss this year’s Seniors, just as I do every other class I’ve ever seen graduate. But they will always be with me. Perhaps more than they know.