I’ve written countless outlines in my head for a blog entry wrapping up the 2009-2010 school year, even thought up entire paragraphs while out running or driving to the store. But none of it has ever been typed up.

Sometimes you just don’t want the year to end.

After graduation, itself an emotional occasion as always (the peculiarly wistful nature of commencement as an ending as well as a beginning is especially strong in boarding schools where students often have lived together 24/7 for four or more years and where the family cars are waiting to pack up all their belongings and whisk them away in a few scant hours), I was talking to one of the seventh grade parents when his daughter, a member of my Humanities 7 class, came up to me in tears. “It’s over,” she said. I tried to comfort her by saying, “You know your whole class will be back next year, and there will be more people joining us.” “I know,” she said, “but seventh grade is over.” My mind raced. I know that words are sometimes beside the point in these situations, that sometimes listening and sympathizing is enough, but as I looked into her face, she seemed to be pleading for me to tell her something, and I was acutely conscious of her father looking up at both of us with concern.

One of my favourite books is In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais, which tells the story of the 1992-1993 state champion Amherst High girls basketball team. Following the game, Coach Ron Moyer is stunned to discover his entire team not whooping it up in celebration but rather sobbing, choking out “last… final… never again…” He responded, “You’re wrong. This isn’t the last. There will be more basketball… I promise you. There will be lots more basketball.” As Madeleine Blais tells it, “They can’t decipher his real message, at least not at this moment. They can’t fathom how the word ‘basketball’ might have more than one meaning.”

I looked at my student, and told her, “The year might be over, but seventh grade is inside you now, and you can draw on it for the rest of your life.” She smiled, and her father murmured “Thank you” as both our eyes glistened.

(pause)

Every summer, I ask incoming Humanities 7 students to do two things. They each complete a survey to help me select the first group novel of the year, and they each choose any one of the books they read over the summer and write me about it. About a week ago, I decided to spend part of the morning going through the surveys to see what the first book would be. While I was emailing our bookstore manager to place my order, I heard the ding that tells me, “You’ve got mail.” It was my first summer reading email, from a student who had read The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis and who had, like me, fallen in love not just with the writer’s style and imagery, but also with Parvana, the protagonist who has to dress like a boy to support her family when the Taliban captures her father. I wrote my student back that same morning.

The new school year had officially begun.

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