Three Sentiments (or, Ode to the School Year)

5 - gradingFast year, right? Summer is here. The seniors can be found draped across their desks, exploring stages of hibernation so deep that they are yet uncharted by the medical community. It’s all very festive.

And into this start-of-summer breeze, I’d like to offer three sentiments.

First, guys, let’s be honest. We didn’t always getting along. I assigned too much homework, gave too many quizzes, wrote tests that stumped you. When I relented even slightly, you celebrated like a labor union that had scored a victory against the cigar-smoking management. I pushed you too hard, expected too much, demanded the unfair or even the impossible. This brings me to my first sentiment:

1 - you're welcome

(As you already know, the finest things in life demand the greatest sacrifice, whether it’s the space program, parenting, or waiting in line for ice cream.)

Second, and joking aside: I didn’t always do right by you. Sometimes I didn’t listen. You sat in my classroom on troubled days, storms churning in your eyes, waiting for a “What’s wrong?” or a kind word – and I gave only a cold glance, a reminder to get to work. Teachers wield power, and sometimes I wielded mine clumsily, swinging it around like a too-heavy club, barely noticing when I thwacked a bystander in the back of the head. I should have been more careful. I should have known better. This brings me to my second sentiment:

2 - i'm sorry

For the times I inflicted pain, or missed a chance to soothe it – I’m sorry, I really am. You’re in a rocky, vexing stage of life. I never meant to make it worse.

And now we come to my third sentiment, the one occupying the greatest real estate in my thoughts. More than “You’re welcome,” or “I’m sorry,” my message for you is this:

3 - thank you

In all earnestness, you brought my year to life. Every day, you volleyed questions, swapped jokes, called out my mistakes. You challenged me to be a better teacher. (A low bar, perhaps, but one I always strain towards.) The moments when curiosity caught you, when you pressed and poked at an idea, when a new truth hit so suddenly that you actually laughed – you ought to know how great it was, sharing those days with you.

Maybe I wasn’t your favorite teacher. Perhaps I came up short in your grade book. But whatever marks I gave you in mine (even if they were lower than your accustom), know that I’m grateful we got to learn together. If the months passed quickly, it’s because our project was a vast and ambitious one, advancing in daily increments, a hundred deliberate steps, each too small to see. I’m glad that you accepted me – even grudgingly – as a collaborator in that endless game we call “growing up.”

Savor the summer. The months will whip past before you’re ready. Drink lemonade, eat watermelon, and play Frisbee every chance you get.

And whoever hands you a syllabus next fall, I hope you bring the same laughter and spark to their class that you brought to mine.

6 - next yearI’m going to miss you, OCHS students. Stay in touch!

3 thoughts on “Three Sentiments (or, Ode to the School Year)

  1. Ben, this is such a wonderful post. I am grading final exams (2nd tri) and was just out looking for inspiration. I am a huge fan and just thought that there was something here. I searched and found this thoughtful post. As a math teacher, I feel short of words sometimes to express my feelings to my students through the fog of “you forgot the negative sign” and “remember to factor first”. You hit a nerve.

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