I went to Tiny Community College’s final graduation ceremonies this morning.
I hadn’t planned on going. For months now, I’ve been asking my graduating students if they were planning on marching, and nearly everyone I asked made a little “pfft!” sound and said “no” in a way that made me feel silly for even asking. Then, this past Monday, one of my favorite students waved me down in the parking lot (and when I say “waved me down,” I mean “jumping up and down, arms waving in every direction” waved me down) and told me that it was important to her that I be there. That’s all I needed – I was in.
I took out my cap and hood and gown (because I’m geeky and not only own such things, but also have them handy) and headed to the auditorium/arena/stadium at Local University where the commencement for TCC was to be held. I stood around with the other faculty and waited to be lined up for the processional. We walked in, took our seats, and the party started.
I’ve been to several graduation ceremonies before, but never on the other side of the proverbial big desk. I was taken aback by how proud I was of the students I’d had in my classes – some of them were in the very first class I taught at TCC – and as I watched them collect their Associate’s degrees, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I’VE learned in the time I’ve been with the college. I still have a long way to go in my teaching practice, I know, but I am much closer to the kind of teacher I’ve always wanted to be as a result of the interactions I’ve had with my colleagues and these students.
I was utterly blown away by the fact that the valedictorian, a young woman I had as a public speaking student (though not the student who insisted I come to the ceremonies), mentioned me – ME! – in her speech. She singled me out as someone who’s been important to her development as a student; someone who pushed her to succeed in something that made her uncomfortable. She remembers me as someone who was encouraging and demanding – someone who expected her to do something she didn’t really want to do – and to do it well – because I knew that she had it in her even if she didn’t. It was all I could do to not cry.
I’m high on this feeling of pride; pride in the work that I do and pride in the students who let me teach them a little bit of something. I’m so terribly glad that I went to this celebration – I got far more out of it than I ever imagined I could have.