Awards Day and Sleeping Babies

Yesterday was Awards Day for the Upper School. The seniors processed in to “Pomp and Circumstance” and I was glad my daughter’s graduation is now two years behind me so I wouldn’t cry. I glanced at my colleague whose daughter is a senior this year. At that moment, she was holding up fine. My students reading this won’t understand this metaphor but parents and teachers will: Attending the awards ceremony and watching a toddler sleep are one and the same.

In that stage of life where all your cabinet doors have to have safety latches and nothing ever stays put away in your home and vegetables appear as mortal enemies on a spoon, a parent’s work can be exhausting. If your toddler is fighting the transition from crib to big bed, as in staying in the big bed now that he knows he isn’t caged in, or throwing a tantrum because he is two years old and can’t communicate frustrations in a mature fashion, it’s hard to keep a cool head. Finally night comes, the little one is tucked in and sound asleep and you go in and stand over that bed. Your heart fills up once again. You love that child so immensely. You can’t imagine life without him.

These were my thoughts yesterday as I watched students I had taught march in. Gangly ninth grade boys who I wouldn’t have bet could safely reach adulthood were streaming in, broad-shouldered in suits and ties; they are men. Girls who knew nothing but boys and drama as freshmen are receiving awards today for academic subject areas in which they have excelled. Volunteerism and community service awards, DAR Good Citizenship, set design, painting and dance awards, theatre arts – a myriad of talents and skills was recognized. Even more important that talents and skills though, we were celebrating perseverance.

Having taught the current seniors as ninth graders, I knew all but just a handful who transferred into the school later. In ninth grade, I could only see potential, a little sprout capable of producing fruit, but by no means bloomed yet into who he or she is going to be. Some days those little sprouts can just about make a teacher crazy with all their newness. They are physically and emotionally all over the place at that age; hormones, rather than common sense, driving the body’s train. Their decisions socially and academically are critical and yet they don’t have the maturity to realize it. Sometimes it’s tempting to write them off as young scholars and think of them as young nuisances.

This time of year- the first of May- teachers and students are worn out. We are all like small children who’ve played outside all day long and are now tired, dirty, hungry and grumpy. Somebody needs to feed us, bathe us, and put us to bed.

I heard the announcement of scholarship recipients, one after the other. Over half of the senior class received academic scholarships to college. I found out one of my current students has maintained a 100 average in AP Chemistry – that while taking my class (AP Lang) and APUSH and who knows what else. I realized another student choreographed dances for our school’s ensemble. I’m standing there watching my toddler sleep. I love them. I’m so proud of them. They did soak up some knowledge. They did discover their gifts, learn how to apply themselves and persevere.

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