My First Graduates
August 1998 was an important month for me. This was when I took my first steps into a first grade classroom for my first day of teaching. When I was a child, all I wanted to be was a teacher. And now the moment was here. Twenty-four eager first graders sat wide eyed and looked at me, wondering what type of great things we would learn.
A seasoned teacher advised me “not to smile until Christmas”. She must not have known me very well, because I always smile. And, within 30 seconds on that first day of school, I flashed my smile, welcomed everyone to my classroom and said I was going to take them on amazing journey! I’ll never forget the moment where I looked up and everyone was quietly working. My room was quiet. 24 six-year-olds were silent. Then I realized, I hate complete silence. So, I turned on some music with the volume very low.
My first year of teaching was fantastic. My students were brilliant both academically and with their extra activities. They made me laugh. They cared about each other. We were a community. I missed them over Christmas break. At the end of the year, I was so proud of their success that I moved up with them and taught them again for second grade.
This was 12 years ago. Now, my first group of first graders is graduating from high school. My babies are grown! I searched for some of them on Facebook to see what their future holds. Many of them still looked similar (with the exception of body parts and facial hairs not normally found of six-year-old kids). The interesting thing was the path of many of them, were characteristics I noticed back then. Juanita Araque was an amazing dancer. We even watched her as Clara in the Nutcracker. She is now working with a professional ballet company and following her passion. Braea Tilford was a social butterfly. She’s graduating from Central High and was a cheerleader and Homecoming Queen. Joey Coombs was very smart at solving problems. He’ll be attending UK to major in business marketing. Bethany Welch was one of the smartest students I had ever met. She had just moved with her family from South Africa and I was just proud to be her teacher. She’ll be attending UL and studying cultural anthropology.
And the list goes on and on. I am just as proud of them now and I was twelve years ago. Back then, boys and girls didn’t like each other more than just friends. Now, they all have their prom pictures with “the love of their life”. (If only they knew it’ll be more like “love of the next couple of weeks”!) Although I’m still the only person that looks the same as in 1998, I feel as if they have the same spirit, love and drive that helped us all survive those two years together. I’m excited to follow them over the next decade and although it was a long time ago, I hope I made some type of difference in their lives.
M.Y. May 2010