“Now we’re up in the big leagues,/ Gettin’ our turn at bat. / As long as we live, it’s you and me baby, / There ain’t nothin wrong with that.” – from the theme song to “The Jeffersons”

For the first time in a very long time, I am hearing rumours of 8th graders sneaking online on their laptops in the middle of classes. However, there is a unique middle school flavour to these transgressions – the girls, it seems, are periodically checking their stocks as part of the coordinated Humanities 8 and Algebra 1 project in Economics. Fortunately, being already this engaged in their work, they are relatively easy to redirect back to whatever is happening in the classroom at the moment. Meanwhile, they are running into the office asking me what I know of Keynesian theories; fortunately, I can draw on information I just learned from Pete this very morning in attempting to answer their questions. The topics they are addressing would challenge many college students, and for that matter many adults. In fact, just by sitting in the office before homeroom and during study hall, I find myself deluged with questions to which I only wish I knew the answers – not just about economics, but also about science, literature and a wide range of other topics. In a quiet moment today, Catherine and I were talking about how extraordinary this 8th grade class is, how many kids have achieved such a high level of sophistication of thought and such a thirst for knowledge. While the 8th graders are definitely taking care to ensure they make the most of their short time left in the middle school, they are also quite clearly more than ready to move on to high school. Both individually and collectively, they inspire our pride.

Meanwhile, the 7th grade class has begun looking ahead to next year as well. They have frequently been asking me how many new 7th and 8th graders we have enrolled for next year and what I know about them, and how they can expect their class to grow in numbers in the years ahead. They care deeply for one another and for the identity of their class, and want to preserve that moving forward. On Friday, while the 8th graders are off on a field trip, I plan to talk with them about what makes their class special, where they started out, how they’ve gotten to where they are now, and what all that means for their role next year in leadership of the middle school. Catherine, Pete and I have frequently talked about how this class is unquestionably going to be a force as they continue to grow up, and without a doubt, we add, a force for truth and justice.

Today, out of the blue, they asked me in rapid-fire succession if I would cry at their graduation, their moving up ceremony, this year’s graduation and this year’s moving up ceremony. I answered in the affirmative on all counts. I never know exactly when it will happen, but each and every year at some point I am overwhelmed as I think about how far each individual girl has come and moments I have observed along the way, how this stage of her journey is over and so much more is yet to come. It is the goal, whether explicit or implicit, of any good teacher to become unnecessary. Meeting that goal is the essence of bittersweet. To the students, however, it is often enough simply to know they matter to us.

Earlier today in housemeeting, Pete stands up to give a Shining Star award to one of the Humanities 8 students. As he describes in loving detail and with great pride what she has done to earn the award, I can’t help but think back to the beginning of the year. Absolutely brilliant, this girl was somewhat used to being able to coast on her natural intelligence and initially resistant to being stretched. Eventually, however, she began to open her mind to what her teachers had to offer to help her discover and work toward all the vast potential she possessed; she has now become one of the most frequent visitors to the middle school office, with one of the most constant streams of insightful questions. Extraordinarily honest and self-aware, she knows and has talked openly about just how far she has come, and is not shy about expressing her strong connections to the teachers that helped her along the way. I wipe my eyes and start to applaud as she stands, smiles at Pete and walks up to accept the award.

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