When I was hired to teach at Owings Mills High School, I was assigned freshmen classes and as my schedule was modified the next two years, I had many of the same students again, and again. That amount of day-to-day contact led to certain bonds being formed so it was incredibly sad when my principal and I disagreed as to my usefulness to the department.
I was not there for their senior year and as I looked for work, I was subbing with increasing regularity at St. Vincent Pallotti High School, I was getting to know many of the students, including that year’s freshmen class.
I made certain to be unavailable to sub the day the OMHS students graduated, secured a ticket, and surprised them. I got high fives, hugs, and lots of smiles as they paraded out of the Towson University gymnasium.
(It’s rather sad, after all, that, so few have stayed in touch. As it is, there’s a rare Facebook exchange. Instead, I continue to hear from two students I encountered their Junior and Senior years who are now graduating college this month.)
As the Pallotti freshmen became sophomores, I got hired fulltime and suddenly was doing the actual teaching. I had three sophomore classes and two were vying for the most difficult and challenging class in the building. Several of the disruptions were caused by the football players, frustrated after a bad season, and unhappy with their coach. They tested my still under-developed classroom management skills. It was not fun.
I then got many of them again as juniors and it was a far better experience as many of those athletes wound up transferring and the school saw it as addition through subtraction. It also helped that I had one section of College Prep but also the Honors kids, many of whom I hadn’t taught before and that made for much better classes.
Now they’re seniors and are about to graduate, the first class I feel I have been through the four years with. Looking back, I dwelt so much on the classroom challenges and frustrations that I wasn’t fully cognizant of how accomplished the rest were.
Looking at them from a slight remove this year, I got glimpses, especially as several decamped to my classroom for lunch every day. And some of my favorites, whether I taught them or not, we’re part of the Belize trip, giving me a chance to see how far they’ve matured.
This year, I began a brand new cycle with the incoming freshmen and we got along wonderfully. As with the graduating class, I see so much potential in so many of them, that I look forward to watching them grow into the adults they will be in just a few short years. They had a good first year, despite the switch to online, and whatever happens, come August, I am ready to see them again as I welcome in the next class. And so it goes…