The end of the school year for seniors — today was the last time they’ll all be together, and as of this afternoon, they are officially graduates, with only the matura (exit exam) awaiting them. There was of course something like a graduation ceremony, complete with a series of skits and songs performed by juniors, as per tradition. Naturally, among the songs was that school classic, “Ale to już było / I nie wróci więcej”
(“But that has already been, and won’t return again”).
I sat there, facing the seniors, watching some of the girls get teary-eyed and sing along, and I couldn’t help but smile. I wasn’t happy because of their obvious sadness, but because of the privilege I was experiencing — to be that close to so many young people that are of no relation to me at all. I see their joys and troubles, and sometimes have to put up with their troubles jointly when they come pouting to class. When I’m extremely fortunate, I’m even part of the cause some of their joy; and unfortunately, I’m certainly the cause of their troubles too often. But young skin, hearts, and bones mend quickly, I tell myself.
I’ve taught these seniors for three years — their entire high school career. I’ve seen some of them go from being complete beginners to relatively eloquent English speakers.
I’ve seen some of them come in and leave with the same level. Most have improved, as evidenced by letters that I had them write to themselves at the end of their first year in high school and then gave back this week. What a feeling, watching them read and hearing them laugh at their own silly mistakes, and what a sense of accomplishment for them that they can now _see_ those mistakes.
But it’s not only been their English that has improved. Girls have become young ladies, in appearance and behavior. Little boys in teenagers’ bodies have become responsible young men. Nerdy outcasts have improved their social skills and have even become semi-popular. Boys learned how to comb their hair and became young men, and awkward young girls became attractive young women.
That’s the best thing about having taught in the same place for a while — you see the kids grow up. It’s like parenting, without as many of the worries.