Next Friday, May 18, 2012, Appling County High School will acquire yet another set of alumni—the notorious and glorious Class of 2012. Caps and gowns have been delivered and worn proudly about the school and at Junior-Senior Coffee House. At Honors Night, many collected medals to enhance their stoles. These graduates are a proud group, as well they should be. So are parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. And teachers—let us not forget them. Teachers invest so much time into students, both the eager and the reluctant ones. Pride buds as graduation approaches and bursts into full bloom as those red and black lines march to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” into Jimmy Swain Stadium. The teachers’ jobs are done at this point. This group is ready to face the world, to endure and overcome whatever life holds for its members.
Though I’ve not had the privilege of teaching many of this year’s seniors, I’ve become close to the ones I have taught. I’ve seen their triumphs and their struggles, as I struggled myself with their procrastination. We’ve talked of Shakespeare and sonnets, of villanelles and iambic pentameter, and of their coming college years. We’ve trekked through the pages of Faulkner and Hemingway and clawed our way through poetry, learning far more than they ever wanted to know. But magnificent was their pride as they realized just how much they had learned.
Weekly came the inevitable question: “When are you going to write about us in your column? Don’t you think we’re a worthy subject?”
Well, as a matter of fact, I do, and this one’s for you, my last class. When you leave, I’m leaving, too. What a fine class to finish my career with!
You were as playful as any kindergarten class, but most days you knew when to be serious. Some days I had to tug you into our lessons a little harder than on other days, but you soaked up the literature once we settled in. After all, you always knew that the Advanced Placement British Literature and Composition Exam awaited you out there in your future. And you wanted to be ready almost as much as I wanted you to. I insisted that you write when you didn’t want to. I forced you to read when you resisted. When I said literary vocabulary, you cringed, but we plowed through it.
Now the monster exam is behind you and you can relax. As we wait for scores, I feel confident that you excelled. Your intelligence and my persistence kept you learning in spite of your efforts not to. Such is life, and to struggle against what we must do is human nature. I really am proud of every one of you. Eric, C.J., Andrew, and Denton like nothing better than stirring up the girls with some sexist remark. Autumn with her magic pen, is swift to retaliate. (I see novels in her future.) Kami, my lover of romantic literature and romance, pretty much ignores the antics of the guys. Tony’s our poet, Chase, our literary critic, and Jordan reads as much as I do. And then there’s our softball quartet—Taylor, Brogan, Haleigh, and Brooke. They wrote about softball, talked about softball, and made it a part of our class collage, but they excelled in the classroom, too, even after late games the day before. Finally, there’s Haley over in the corner, quiet, but always attentive. From her vantage point she views the rest of the class with a discerning eye, offering timely and profound remarks.
How smart and talented you all are! How resourceful! You and your peers are tomorrow’s leaders: I feel safe in your hands. Your ideals are lofty, but you love each other and your fellow man. I know that your optimism and industry will see you through when times get hard. I assure you they will get hard.
Go forth now into your bright futures and excel as you have in high school—maybe a little more for some of you. Take with you the knowledge you’ve learned in English class. Use the self-discipline you’ve practiced here on good days. And always hold on to the memories you made in Room 314 of Appling County High School. The high school years are wonderful indeed. Treasure them.