Last night, I had my first post-graduation dinner with my 2012 Advisory at a pizza place in the neighborhood. Thirteen of 18 students showed up. It was great to catch up.
It was the first time the crew had been together since last June. My students care about each other, and so they quickly fell into a group check-in, a routine they’d participated in weekly since ninth grade.
The updates ran the gamut. Here are some snippets:
- The valedictorian who disliked and dropped out of her elite East coast school, now back at home playing soccer and applying to UCs;
- The two students struggling at UC Merced, one on academic probation, who nonetheless both say that college is easier than high school;
- The student who finds himself at City College after a disastrous last year of high school that got him disenrolled from UC Santa Cruz;
- The two students who chose the military, one of whom is eager for his tour of duty, while the other faces isolation in rural South Carolina;
- The students who are shining at San Francisco State after participating in a summer program geared to help students transition to college;
- The student who left her family and is now living with a friend after deciding she could no longer deal with the abuse in her house.
Overall, my students were happy and positive and upbeat. They are great and strong and smart and resilient people. They are doing some great things. They feel confident about where they stand and what their futures will bring.
I am hopeful that they will continue to feel this way. After all, the struggle continues after graduation. Yesterday’s sobering article in the New York Times, “For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall,” reminded me that it’s not enough for high schools to provide a high-quality education. Getting across the stage is just one small step, and especially if you’re from a lower-income background, it’s quite possible to do well in high school and then fail in college, even if you have similar academic skills as your richer peers.
If you have time, please read the article and let me know what you think.
As teachers, many of us think that our primary purpose is to serve the students in front of us, those who enter our classrooms every day (and those who are absent). It is. But seeing my graduates the other night and reading that article in the newspaper make me consider expanding my responsibility as a teacher. The school year may end, and students may graduate, but there’s a lot more learning to do, and a lot more struggle, and many more opportunities for mentorship.