Saturday, June 24, 2017

Don't Blink                                              

I did, they told me not to and I did it anyway. I blinked and 18 years went by in what seemed like 5 minutes. Or in other words a "blink of an eye." 

Rocking him to sleep at night, dropping him off at preschool, Little League baseball, the nurturing years at Sayen School, the challenging years of middle school and then the years of triumphant spirit at Steinert High School.  Years full of anecdotal growth academically and socially culminated yesterday with commencement exercises at the Sun Center. Now my oldest son stands on the precipice of the collegiate experience as he readies to enter Rider University in the fall, ready to take yet another step towards carving out the life that he imagines for himself.

Yesterday it was obvious that he is ready to take this next step by the confident manner in which he conducted himself at his graduation. While he appeared exuberant in his mannerisms it signaled to me that this was his day and he was going to enjoy it with his people. His four years had been about building pride and spirit for his school and using that as the foundation to build relationships with his peers and his teachers. Yesterday was one final opportunity to demonstrate that pride and display his commitment to that spirit, by celebrating the class of 2017 with every opportunity that was presented. 

As the commencement exercises came to a conclusion with the exit of the graduates, they put their high school years in the rear view mirror, essentially writing the last chapter of their childhood. Yes I blinked again and a room full just an hour ago now stood empty in front of me. High School graduates all, having left to chase after their dreams and build a life that they only imagined in what seemed like just a few short years ago.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Senior Shine

This post is dedicated to Jennifer Snyder, Kathy St. John, Jim St.John Jane Hutchison and Tom Hutchison. I am grateful to have watched with you, all  of our children grow into outstanding young adults.

This Senior Awards program for the Steinert High School Class of 2017 sparked a week long celebration of the "senior experience" both in my personal and professional life.

Receiving the invitation for our son Peter to attend the awards ceremony prior to the event left my wife and I with feelings of gratitude and anticipation, wondering what the recognition would entail. When the night arrived and he was recognized twice for his spirit and his contributions to his senior class, we were overcome with a strong sense of pride. Enhancing the experience was witnessing Andrew, David and Jimmy all receive special recognition as well. Watching them grow and develop their strong character over the years, fueled the joy that I felt for them and their families on that evening. 

As I listened to the accolades bestowed upon this senior class I sensed just how special these individuals were.  My son had put himself in a position to stand by side with his peers and join with them  in celebration, on a night designed to honor all of them. I was beyond thrilled for our family, but mostly for him as it was yet another memory to add to his amazing high school journey. 

With graduation two weeks away we are entering the home stretch and the conclusion of the public school chapter. The growth I have witnessed in my son  from infant, to toddler, to preschooler, to elementary student to adolescent and now adult has been extraordinary. I couldn't have written a script with a character that would eclipse the man he is becoming. I eagerly await the details as the next chapter of his life unfolds. Thankfully I will have a front row seat to take it all in.

Teaching 6th grade students allows me a one year window to view the growth of approximately 100 students annually. A great deal of time is invested into building a culture within a 180 day period which will enrich their lives academically and socially. Relationships are forged and for that 180 days we all share in life's triumphs and miseries. I would argue that for better or worse we all get to know each other fairly well. When the final June bell sounds it signals a time to be grateful for the time spent together, but also the time that awaits. They will head off to seventh grade and I will begin talking steps to welcome next years class. My year with them brought to inevitable closure.

Some of my ex-students I will see often in the hallways and some will stop by, while others will move completely forward not looking back. It may seem sad but it is just the nature of this job. Two years ago a special event commenced giving graduating seniors and their former middle school and elementary school teachers a final chance to say goodbye.  The "senior walk" took place this morning as former students, now graduating seniors, paraded nostalgically throughout the PRMS hallways. My spirits were lifted watching the joy on their faces as many of my former students greeted me with handshakes and hugs. The confident look on their faces signaled to me that the were indeed heading in the right direction. The last senior stopped for a moment, shook my hand and told me that I was one of his favorite teachers. I couldn't really imagine a better way to conclude an event or a week that had brought so much joy to so many.