Saturday, May 17, 2008


Last night was graduation—finally. I’ve had the date circled in red on the calendar so long that it seemed almost anti-climactic when May 16 actually came. One of the students even bought long-stemmed roses for all of us, so my students and I looked a little like 14 maroon-robed bridesmaids walking into the auditorium in the graduation procession.

We took pictures, we hugged each other—it was a glorious night. And I am incredibly, sinfully relieved it’s over for another year.

About three years ago, I had a student who said “thank you” every time she left class. Just that—“thank you.” And although it makes me sound needy and shallow, I will admit it: that “thank you” thrilled me every single time she said it. In that whole semester, I never-ever-not-even-once got tired of hearing her say it.

We thank the waiter or waitress who delivers our food to our table. We thank the checkout clerk who runs our groceries over a scanner. We thank the bus driver, the store clerk, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. But the teachers who spent three hours of prep time to create just that one hour’s worth of class time? We flee the classroom like they’re terrorists who have just held us hostage against our will for the past hour, a box cutter to our throats, threatening to kill us and our children and our children’s children. Even though it’s been years since I was a student, I remember that feeling well. I didn’t care how many people I trampled, how many lives were lost on my way to the classroom door—I just needed to get out of there! Air—air—I needed air!!

Even though I remember the trapped-student feeling, it was still nice when the student said “thank you.” That entire semester, she made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I was one step above a terrorist.

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