My babies graduated today, and it feels a little bit like I graduated with them.
I don’t really know how to talk about these kids, about this year, which is weird, because I can usually find a way to talk about anything. But I am still processing the last few months of my life; it has been a very difficult year. I did not plan for this year to be my last at my current school, but, as we all know, rarely do our plans and life align. And while this is not how I had thought things would go, there is a fitting, if unintentional, symmetry to the transition. The Class of 2018 was my final group of eighth graders before I moved to teaching in the high school, and they will be my final group of seniors before moving to Arizona.
When I first met them as middle schoolers, I told several colleagues that I’d never bonded with a class so quickly. There was just something about them—their humor, their liveliness, their attentiveness and thoughtfulness. They were easy to be with, easy to love. They still are.
I know them differently now: better, more deeply. I know that they are not all sunshine and roses, that there are sides to them that I dislike or that worry me, parts of them that drive me nuts just as I’m certain there are parts of me that do the same. That’s the beauty of really knowing each other, the thing that has surprised me most about teaching: the way my students contribute to me, not as people adjacent to my life, but as people very much in my life. This group of humans has been unbelievably generous with me in how they share themselves, even (especially) the parts that can be the hardest to share. On the page, in person, in a coffee shop in Tel Aviv, their willingness to be vulnerable, to trust me with themselves, still leaves and will always leave me breathless with gratitude.
We are all moving on to new places and new adventures, but there are some things that I want to hold onto from this year, from these kids. The love and compassion they showed me when I was struggling physically and needed to take time away from school for surgery – stop telling me that teenagers are shallow and self-absorbed, because I have the text messages and emails and hand-written cards to prove otherwise. The way they cheered when I joined them on their senior trip, lining up to hug and welcome me. The intellectual bravery and personal risk-taking that has inspired me in ways they will never fully know. It is because of their example that I have been able to envision a new future for myself, to step into this major change, both scary and exciting.
So, Class of 2018, thank you for letting me be an honorary member of your graduating class. I will forever be grateful for all that you have taught and given me, for the opportunity to know you. I admire the way that you work to align your values and your actions, the way that you care deeply but manage not to take yourselves too seriously. Each of you has grown so much this year, that painful growth that brings with it self-knowledge and new perspective. Hold onto what you’ve gained. Write in your journal every once in a while. Trust yourself. Wear sunscreen. Cite your sources. Remember that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. And know that I love you and I am cheering you on, no matter from how far away. I can’t wait to see what we all do next.