One of my middle school classes just ended about an hour ago. On these last class days, among other things, everyone gets a blank book and we all write notes to each other, the students, myself, and my co-teacher. Then we all hug, say good-bye, and go our separate ways. After spending fourteen weeks together for two hours each week talking about deeply emotional material, saying good-bye is always sad.
The class that just ended tonight had some very special youth in it. All of my classes do, of course. I feel honored and blessed by the opportunity to talk and get to know and support each young person who comes into my classrooms, but it is this particular class that I am sad to see go right now.
One of the young women I felt a particularly close bond with. Something in her spoke to something in me. As we were gathering up our things, preparing to move on, I told her I was glad she had been in the class. She smiled and nodded and said she was too. She went on: “I really didn’t want to come at first. I even thought about tying myself to a tree to keep from having to come,” and I laughed, and she continued, “but I’m really glad I came. Can you write your phone number down for me so I can call you? If I ever need to?” I pointed her to the page in her book where I had written her note and had already given her my number. She hugged me again. Here is what this young woman wrote to me in my book: “Karen, You are a great teacher. You made this class as fun and cool as it could possibly be! Thank you for everything you have taught me.”
Another young woman from this class came up to me with tears in her eyes. She gave me a hug and then looked me right in the eye and whispered, “Thank you. For what you wrote in my book. Thank you. It means a lot to me.” I had written that she knew herself well, and that trusting herself and her instincts would stead her well in life. In my book, she wrote: “Thank you Karen for being kind and patient and spending all the time and energy with us. I felt uncomfortable at first but you made me feel welcome.”
This is a common sentiment among students I say good-bye to: Acknowledging the dread they felt initially, and the grace and gratitude they feel now. It is empowering to know how to talk about your body and sex and the difficult things in life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring this empowerment, grace, and gratitude to so many young people.