My week was book-ended by two graduations - my son's and the school where I used to teach. I was getting email from former students asking me to come (as if I'd miss it!). The two are a study in contrasts. My son's class had roughly 130 kids and my old school had 26 (which was one of the biggest graduating classes we've had). My son's graduation was relatively formal and traditional, and except for the kihei color and the "trick" at the end, was exactly the same as his sister's graduation two years ago (her class threw confetti, this class through cards - which was hilarious because we teachers were confiscating cards for months) and this school, although the basic format is the same, the kids ALL do graduation speeches, so the graduation becomes very original. I have already had two kids (juniors), "You ARE coming next year. You ARE. For MY graduation." (as if I'd miss it!).
I founded that high school - 7 years ago it was me and 22 ninth graders in an incredibly loud room (loud from noise outside our room - the walls didn't go all the way up). I was lucky to have another teacher come in and teach math so I could have a prep, but otherwise, it was a one room schoolhouse. I even had to teach science - which admittedly was a blast, but a joke for a high school level class. We did very cool things - the kids had internships, we did all kinds of projects all over the place, we went to the old irrigation flumes in Kohala and rode canoes, PE was swimming lessons at the county pool. With 22 kids and a bus, you can do a LOT of cool things. We did a 30 minute rendition of Romeo and Juliet (that was HILARIOUS) to the delight of the kindergarteners.
I look at this class of 2012 - our 5th graduating class and am amazed at how far this tiny school has come. It makes me nostalgic for what could have been. I had to take my new job for my family, my sanity (no more driving 120 miles a week going back and forth, back and forth) and I do love it, actually - but I was so glad that I went to the graduation. I stood in the faculty line for the hugs (I was asked by staff and students, so I didn't feel weird). I signed a copy of a novel one of my former students self-published - right next to my name in the dedication. Kids graciously included thanks to me, along with the other teachers - thank you for teaching me to write. Thank you for teaching me to do my work. Thanks for trusting me with the digital media computers, for giving me a voice to express myself, for putting up with my obsessions and letting me get credit for it. I don't know if any of you, the class of 2012 from our tiny school in Hilo, are reading this - but thank you, young men and women for including me so graciously in your lives, for remembering to thank the adults who've loved you and taught you and wish for you to do your best.
And especially thanks to the juniors and the alumni who showed up and pushed the brooms and the mops - last year it was just Kumu and I and one kid and boy, it took HOURS. It was much nicer to have your help - and it was great we all went out and shared a meal to celebrate!
To my readers - if you are ever in Hilo - you must go eat at Ken's Pancake House. And when they ring the bell, just yell, "Sumo!" It will make sense after a few times.