Wednesday, June 07, 2006

ON TEACHING: "Saying Goodbye"

Yesterday was the last day of classes, and I tried my best to say a fond farewell to my students – especially the kids who are graduating. I have dearly loved this year’s 9th grade (I’ve taught them for two years), and I felt my eyes growing moist as their classes neared an end. This group of students has shown me immeasurable amounts of good humor, wisdom, courage, and their own special kind of unadulterated elation, and I will miss them dearly. I felt like I was saying goodbye (probably forever) to 19 of my own children. The classes went very well – perfectly, I would say, for the last classes of the year. We did some serious English business, but we ended on a more informal and poignant note. We listened to a few pop songs (“Desperado”, “I Can See Clearly Now”) and discussed how they applied to English class or the books we read, and at the end, I sang a karaoke song I did for the kids at the start of the year. It was, in some ways, a silly song, just my clumsy rendition of Louie Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World”, but the kids, I think, truly loved it. Sometimes I doubt the effectiveness or importance of the “silly” things I do in class, but watching the looks on the students’ faces as I tried my best to squeak out this song convinced me that I need to continue being silly now and then. I think they loved listening to it, and I know I loved singing it for them. There were many teary eyes (including my own) when the song – and the final class – was over.

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