A year ago I wrote a post called "An open letter to my students" to share all my final thoughts, the lessons I had learned, and my final good-byes. Today, as I watched the class of 2014 walk across the stage, I realized I had more to say.
When the class of 2014 walked into my room as 8th graders, I was a brand new teacher starting her very first job. My 8th graders first assignment (or one of the first) was to write about some of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas (aka Native Americans - NOT the Europeans, and DEFINITELY not Columbus). I don't know why I remember that, but it seemed important at the time.You presented your city planning projects to Marlin Pruismann, you created a world in Minecraft, you opened up to the world about 9/11 on Today's Meet. But it's not the assignments or projects that I remember most.
What I remember is the way you met every challenge head on. You carried out an AWESOME prom while I was on maternity leave. You worked through projects and activities when even I didn't know what the final product would be. You went through this sharing agreement and saw your high school lives change halfway through - and flourished.
I remember how you embraced life and had fun. We had parties. We named future children with strong, historical names like Natty Bumpo and Fanny Fern. I still have homemade Colts birthday cards.
I remember the hard times. You lost a classmate and it hurt. But you all grew closer and stronger. One of my favorite memories of James was a day in class where everyone was kind of sleepy. He helped me lead the class in doing the Cha Cha slide at our seats. It's that fun-loving attitude that you all have held onto and kept alive as the time has gone on. Always hold onto that.
All these things seemed so big at the time. Now they are little pieces of the past. You will go out into the world beyond the walls of NEH and remember the stories and faces and friends. But this has been just a small part of a big future. Carry the big lessons with you, let go of the little things. You won't keep up every friendship, but when you meet up again it can feel like you never left - cherish the memories as you face the future.
It's funny how even after a year away, those little things are all still such a huge part of who I am. I guess what I really realized today was that I was a small part of a great big life that you have ahead of you. But you were, and still are, a HUGE piece of my life that I will cherish every single day. I went into teaching thinking that I would get to play a role in who you became - I hope that's true - but what I didn't truly realize (although I thought I did) until today was the huge part you all would play in who I am. I have learned with you, learned about you, and learned from you. Thank you, class of 2014. I learned one more lesson from you today. You will go out into the world and each make your mark, but please know that you have already made an impact; already made a difference. Thank you for the part you played in shaping me into the person I am today.