William H. Johnson

“We’ll miss you, Mister. Will you miss us?”

In Reflection on June 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm

The talk of summer has been sporadic between the students and me this week. It’s been mostly business. Preparing for the final exams. Hassling the kids who’ve given up, telling them that every moment they apply themselves is valuable, pass or fail.

Quietly, for all of us, the clock has been ticking. Friday, tomorrow, is the last day of school. For some it’s just the last day of a school year. For some it could be last day before heading off to the continuation school to make an attempt to catch up on credits already lost early in their high school lives. For me the feelings are mixed. While I’m relieved that my first year is almost over, I’m also feeling more than a touch of seperation anxiety.

These kids will always be the first students I worked with during my first full year in public education. Regardless of how deep their struggles–the struggles were many– and no matter how challenging some of them were to work with on the bad days–and there were bad days–they will always be the first. They were a motley crew of teenagers; strong minds battling real loss and crises among academically disheartened souls at a crossroads among hardened hearts who’ve given up on school and have chosen to wear a brash smile until the school will no longer admit them.

Regardless of their story, they were all my students; kids I shared with other teachers, families, and the community. For an hour of a day, Monday through Friday, my classroom was where they belonged. Bonds had to be created first and foremost for any learning to take place, individual bonds and one that consisted the whole group. Tomorrow they’re released from my one-hour-a-day care and those connections will be left to sway in the breeze until their forward going relevance is determined and they evolve to memories or bonds of a new kind.

Tonight, I’m giving in to that quietly overwhelming combination of relief and sadness to see the year end. I’ll be proud of the students that gave themselves a chance to pass a class or state exam that they’d previously failed. I’ll honor those few A students who found their groove and soared amidst of the occassional chaos of students who didn’t share their commitment. I’ll choose to have hope for the kids who will retake the required course or state exam, some of which  will be seniors, and pray they are able to overcome their fear of making an honest try next year.

As writers we live with passion for our characters. Just as they often did this year, my characters both from published works and works in progress will step aside and quietly honor these real young people who inspired  as many highs, lows, and flashes of grace as any imagined landscape I’ve ever visited.

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