My eyes first welled up when my kids walked in to the Vitamin C “Graduation” song at the start of 8th grade promotion. Then I teared up more as my principal made her speech, which she cried all the way through. It got a little worse as one of the student speakers gave me a personal (and somewhat surprising) thank-you from the stage. I was holding back as hard as I could when I shook all my homeroom kids’ hands as their names were read. Then the ceremony ended and I walked outside with my kids, and that’s when I just started crying and couldn’t stop.
Then my kids started hugging me one by one, and many of them started crying too. Then suddenly their parents were there, taking pictures and asking me to pose while I wiped tears off my face. Just as I would get myself composed, another student I love would come over to say goodbye and I would start crying all over again.Then I would pull myself together and a parent would walk over to thank me and say how sad they were that I’m leaving, and I’d be crying again. (And then there would be more pictures, since parents love nothing more than teachers’ tears for their children.)
Then someone came over to get me, saying there was a visitor waiting outside the gates for me who wasn’t allowed in. It turns out it was this kid, who wasn’t allowed at the promotion ceremony or even on campus today because of his behavior. Last year, I never got a chance to say goodbye to the kids who were banned from the ceremony, and I never saw any of them again. Because of that, I had made this boy promise he would say goodbye, and he showed up after promotion to make good on that promise. As soon as I realized who it was and what he was doing, I started crying all over again, twice as hard as I cried for anyone else. I just stood there in front of him with tears streaming down my face, while he said, “Ms. Mathinaz, don’t cry! You’re supposed to be laughing! Why aren’t you laughing? Don’t cry. I almost got arrested trying to come see you!” Then I got myself together enough to scold him for nearly getting into trouble and instruct him to take care of himself and not mess up his life.
The problem with being a teacher is that at the end of the year, that’s the absolute most I can do. I can stand in front of a teenager and beg him to not screw up, but that’s it. After that, it’s up to him and whoever enters his life next, and with this kid that’s a terrifying thought. But at the very least, I put my heart out there a hundred percent and he hugged me before he left. At the very least, I know he walked away completely confident in how genuinely I care about him, and that’s not a small thing. Actually, I think most of my kids left the ceremony knowing that today, so I guess overall this was good.