Last August a group of kids walked into my classroom in the EGHS library. I’m not sure if they had heard warnings from previous students or if they just had a good sense about them, but they were quiet, open to direction, and hard workers beginning on day one. Their eyes widened a bit when they looked at the syllabus for ENGL 111. Starting on that first day, I told them that even though everyone else called them “the seniors,” they were still only juniors with their summer tan for my class. The moniker of being the oldest and wisest students would be earned a few weeks later when we fully dug into the readings, analysis tools, and writing techniques for the critique assignment. In their own time, they all reached the point of truly being high school seniors. I welcomed them into their senior selves with open arms.
By this point, they actually paid attention to grammar rules. They were learning how to insert quotes and write reference citations using APA formatting. Bless their hearts, they were completing annotations and prewriting like never before. As they began to realize how the whole process worked, they were soon complaining because I made them stay under a four-page limit for a paper, and they “needed” more room! These babies of mine were maturing and growing as thinkers and writers. Just like the students I’ve been blessed with for years, these kids made me think and plan to stay ahead of them.
During our first weeks of school, they were also learning to juggle being athletic and student body leaders while they met all of their coursework deadlines. These students did not slack on their course selection, and they all carried heavy loads of dual-credit, AP, and advanced classes. Then, they started to think about their future. They thought, planned, thought again, researched, wrote admissions essays and letters, applied, and gathered acceptance emails. As our year moved into the second semester and ENGL 206, my students also learned to enjoy poetry just a smidge more and wrote the most beautiful elegies. When senioritis hit, some of their attention to detail waned. I might have scolded just a bit. Still, they finished strong.
The students encouraged each other, laughed, fought, cried, learned tough life lessons, and felt the accomplishment of achieving goals together. I know that we’ve all had moments to embrace forever and moments we’d like to forget. The Class of 2023 moved across the bumps and expected senior year ebbs and flows right on schedule. If you have a senior in your life, you know what this looks like from your home viewpoint, and I am also so thankful for all the family members who helped and supported my students.
One of the most powerful moments in the class came just a few days ago as I read aloud from our text and had them write their answers to the questions I asked as if they were in a discussion with themselves. They were thoughtful, serious, open to ideas, and a bit scared. I have never been more proud of them. In those moments and in the final writings, these seniors bloomed into graduates.
I hope they, like all of my other past graduates, remember that once you are mine, you are always one of mine. Always. These loves are ready for their next steps, and I will always be right here when they need me. Along with their end-of-the-year surprise and note, I continued the tradition and wrote them a graduation poem. Shakespeare or Owen, I am not, but for them I tried my hand at a sonnet, complete with iambic pentameter. I hope they remember the message behind the humor and always mind the details in their work and in their relationships.
Slow Down, Notice, and Create Flow:
A Poem about Embracing Details for the Class of 2023
Your choices make me weak as you are caught
between confusion and the moment when
you let a comma land in the wrong spot.
I sigh and show too much of my chagrin
because I know you know the easy rule.
A partial quote does not undo your wit.
My pencil and green pen prepare to dual
against the lame excuses you permit,
detracting from the lacking care and lapsed
attention phones and friends and boredom steal
from you. Did you make haste to be relaxed,
leaving lazy caps a sad ordeal?
How many signs and samples can I give
to make your grammar be transformative?
How can I let you go to chase your dreams
when still you need to practice once again
the format and the planning to boost esteem?
I’ll have to set you free and trust you then.
Oh, human nature’s way dictates our proud,
self-centered rush, yet you direct your mind.
A thoughtfulness will lead to care endowed
upon your writing skill and on your shrined
relationships. You see, details are more
than for your script. Yes, love and praise belong
to those who search for finer points and pour
the time and plans into specifics—strong.
So, go. And as you travel on, compose
your focus from the commas to the flows.
May 16, 2023
A Bonus Haiku: Numbers Are Hard
You’ll always belong to me.
Brave. Hard-working. Bright.
Now, go chase ambitious dreams!