When I'm walking to campus across the High Street bridge, seeing the trees on the banks of Decker's Creek leafing out and catching a glimpse of a moutainside painted in shades ranging from the palest green to russet, Robert Frost's lines "Nature's first green is gold/ Her hardest hue to hold" often run through my mind. In April, every day brings the emergence of some new wonder even as yesterday's fades.
Can you tell I'm feeling sentimental lately?
I facilitated a couple of sessions for the English education soon-to-be grads, and realized while I was sitting there that this is really the first class of students that I've seen through their entire program, since I'm finishing my fifth year.
The students in the photo, Brent and Carrie, were both students in one of the best sections of the young-adult lit class I've taught thus far. It was one of those classes full of amazing students who collectively create something even greater than the sum of their individual parts.
We initially bonded over our mutual disdain for Sharon Draper's Tears of a Tiger, a book I didn't really care for but had included because it's required reading at both of the high schools in town. It was one of the first novels we read, and after about half an hour of discussing it, someone finally asked, in a tentative voice, "Why did you choose this book?" Suddenly we all heaved a mutual sigh of relief, realizing that we all felt the same way about it. From then on, there was no holding back.
That was in fall 2009, the semester my father died. In fact, the only things I remember about that fall are Dad's illness, and specific moments from the young-adult lit class. I missed a week of school right after Thanksgiving for the memorial service, and I was anxious about going back to work afterward. But every one of the students in that class sent me an e-mail while I was gone to offer their condolences and to express their sympathy, and when I went back, I almost cried, I felt so much like I was back home.
(And then Emma played guitar and sang a very funny song she'd written about Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak [believe it or not], and I laughed until I almost cried again.)
A couple of the folks in that class have graduated already, but most of them will be graduating in May. Brent, on the left, has been in at least three of my classes, starting in the fall of 2008. Writing a letter of recommendation for him recently, I thought about how lucky I am to be able to be a part of some students' lives for these particular years. A music-teacher friend of mine once remarked that middle-school students were her favorite to work with, because they were just starting to figure out who they are. I love working with college students for the same reason--and because they're so full of potentials and possibilities for the future.
I never thought I'd be the kind of person to say this, but what the hell: it's true. Not having any children of my own, some of these students truly come to feel like my kids. The love and pride I feel for them is overwhelming at times. And many of the WVU students I've grown to feel that way about were in that fall 2009 class: Brent and Carrie, but also Emma and Jake and Paige and Rachel...you get the idea.
It's been a long, hard semester, and I'm not going to be remotely sorry to see it in my rearview mirror. And I won't be sorry to see these students graduate and take their gifts into the world. But I will be sorry not to see them around.
(As long you're reading such schmaltz, you might as well listen to some, too, right?)