It's graduation season. A time where we focus our eyes and spotlights and applause on the students who successfully pushed through the exams, the essays, the sports games, the drama, to walk across a stage and receive that diploma. To graduate. Finally.
So we celebrate. We honor the graduates with parties and families and photos and cake. Lots of cake (preferably with heaps of frosting and rosettes and plastic graduation caps.) We write "Congratulations" on cards and give "How to Succeed in the Real World" books and write "Top 10 Things I Learned When..." blog posts. Of course the graduates deserve the praise and recognition and celebrations and cake and blog posts.
But this post isn't for the students.
This one's for the teachers.
This one is for the teachers who stand in front of the students every day, writing on white boards and planning lessons and doing all they can to prepare youth for the rest of their lives. This one's for the teachers who are full of nerves and anxiety on that first day of class in the fall, then bittersweet sadness as they say goodbye in the spring. The Silent Heroes who put in the work day in and day out, sometimes viewed as the antagonist by the students for assigning those group projects, required readings, difficult tests.
But teachers face their own tests, too. So this one's for them.
This one is for the teachers who made it through another year full of hurdles. The long days and worrisome nights, the frustrated parents, the conferences. The detentions. The decisions. The reviews. The observations.
This one's for the teachers that blur the lines because you care so much for these students, as if they are an extension of your own family. The ones that make sure the kids have full bellies and open minds. The ones that are the only constant in some of their students' lives, filling the void as a caretaker or pseudo parent. The ones that use their own money to pour back into the classroom with materials and books and supplies.
This one's for the teachers that are so much more than teachers. The ones that are fighters, advocators, listeners, healers, all to reach one more.
This one is for the hard days. The days that are long and the nights are longer, your mind racing and running. The days where teachers feels unsure of themselves, the ones that go home and wonder if they are making a difference, if the lessons are sticking, if they should just pack up the apples on their desks and stop trying.
You matter. The lessons stick. Trust me.
My high school days are long behind me, but the lessons live on and those who taught me. So this one's for them, too.
This one's for Mrs. Kochendorfer, my first-grade teacher at Patterson Elementary in St. Charles, Michigan, who's proud, grinning face is still etched in my memory when I read her "The Rainbow Fish," just a shy 6-year-old back then with Keds shoes and blunt bangs.
This one's for Miss Bell, with her huge heart and booming voice shouting throughout my high school hallways: "Practice abstinence!" We laughed with her and loved her because she laughed and loved us first.
This one's for Mr. Brownlie, with his easy-going manner and button-down shirts and soft-spoken voice. He retired this year, and his dedication and love for his students poured back to him as his former students created a hard covered book thick with pages full stories of how he impacted their lives.
This one's for the future teachers, the college students in classrooms of their own right now, balancing the act of being a teacher and a student, observing and soaking it all in so they are ready to change lives.
Because that's what teachers do. They do more than teach. They shape us. They lead us....until we reach the finish line and throw our caps into the hair, grinning at the idea of the future, unsure of what's next.
But teachers know what's next: another school year. And so they begin another season of preparation and books and lessons and worries centered around fresh faces sitting in desks.
In this season of mortar caps and gold tassels, Dr. Seuss and "Oh The Places You Go!" lines are repeated as we stare at the backs of the graduates running forward into the so-called real world. But let's pause for a moment and thank the teachers that helped get them to this point. Because without them -- sorry Dr. Seuss -- we wouldn't have a lot of places to go. We would all be a little lost.
Congratulations, students. And congratulations, teachers. You did it. All of you.