Sometime back in February, I had an idea. We should put together a slideshow for 8th grade commencement that wasn’t just pictures, but spotlighted every 8th grader in the school. After all, there were only 97 of them, and they were our first graduating class. A little leery of setting a precedent for years to come, Mr. Ancker, our illustrious principal, reluctantly agreed. “But then we’ll have to do it every year.” “No,” I assured him. “We won’t. This group is special.” They deserved all we had to offer.
I put my newspaper kids on the task. They interviewed every 8th grader and created a slide for each. As any of my bright ideas, I ended up spending far too much of my own time on the project. Hours were spent editing, revising and formatting.
The night before the ceremony, as I was putting the final touches on the show, it hit me. And it hit me hard. These kids were leaving. My kids. With a few exceptions, they had been in my life for two years. A few I’d even taught for three. I knew them. These were MY kids. They were off to high school. I was suddenly sobbing, tears flowing down my cheeks to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up”, a sappy song I had chosen to end the show.
One of my favorite moments of the year was our journey together reading SE Hinton’s The Outsiders. As every 8th grader knows, who has had the privilege of that rite of passage, one of the prominent themes is from Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. Never has that theme become so real to me then at that moment. My kids had to change. They needed to move on.
As I stood at the podium at commencement, trying not to repeat the water works from the night before, Johnny’s words to Ponyboy at the end of the novel reverberated. “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”
As educators, we have students who come into our lives and plant themselves right next to our hearts. I was fortunate enough to not just have a few these past two years, but almost 100. I will truly miss them.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay