I was only a couple of weeks into my full-on career change from journalism to education when I got home from Seymour High one day in September. I walked into the kitchen, dropped my bag on the counter, and I stared with bewilderment at nothing in particular while one thought dominated my mind.
What the hell am I doing?
I didn’t know what to do during classes. I was frustrated with all the immaturity. I had 650 names I wanted to learn but it wasn’t happening. And I earned a whole zero dollars a day trying to juggle all that with a full load of graduate work.
But now, as I sit here writing this post the morning after my first group of seniors graduated, I can’t help but think much differently than I did about nine months ago.
I’m so happy I did this.
I don’t really remember ever being as happy as I’ve been for the last couple of months. Nine days out of 10, it’s been a blast to come into school because of the people I’ve gotten to know. I’ve grown to love everything except waking up so early and a few groups that don’t seem to grasp the concept of respect.
Anyways, I wanted to write about some of the reasons I’m appreciative for everything that happened this year. I decided not to single out anybody here by name, but rest assured that if you think any of this is about you, it definitely is.
- I appreciate those of you who went out of your way during the first few weeks to get to know who I am and why I was here, and the many more of you who have asked over the last few months what I’ll be doing next year.
- I appreciate every single eye roll and groan that preceded and followed my outstanding jokes. Pretend that you won’t miss them if you want, but you’re just lying to yourself.
- I appreciate the ridiculous nicknames — starting with “Sir Bren” from the out-of-control group of AP Language students, down to “Brendog” and “Mr. B,” and finishing up with the one girl who still calls me “Brenny.” That’s not even to mention the dozens who at some point started calling me Kyle and I didn’t really care enough to change it.
- I appreciate the bunch who wanted me to become a geometry teacher because I was able to reteach myself a few concepts that I hadn’t seen in 12 years and break it down enough for a few people to understand. I hate math.
- I appreciate all the teachers and staff members who have lent their advice, answered my questions, and treated me as a trusted colleague throughout this entire year. Seymour High is lucky to have so many dedicated and talented educators who legitimately care about their students.
- I appreciate the groups who picked me to include in their video projects. I’ve jammed out to “It’s Tricky,” eaten a banana during a job interview, provided expertise on Newton’s laws of motion, learned how to throw a boomerang, and pretended I’ve been on a roller coaster. Clearly I should have been an actor.
- I appreciate all of our athletes and how y’all always asked if I was going to your game that day, but I’m not going to lie and pretend I didn’t have a special relationship with our baseball and softball teams. You guys and girls made this spring so much fun for me. When I should have been doing my own homework or side projects, I wanted nothing more than to watch one of your games. So I did that instead, and I always made the right decision. I’m immensely proud of your championships and the fact that you let me play a small part in your seasons. I will absolutely be doing the best I can to watch you all play again next year, whether it’s here or in college.
- I appreciate the fact that, as the year went on, I couldn’t walk through a hallway before school or during passing time without hearing my name yelled from a dozen directions.
- I appreciate the way that so many of you trusted me with your problems, thoughts, crises, complaints, successes, and goals. It’s not an easy thing to open up to others, especially unpaid high school interns, but I’m thrilled that many of you felt I was trustworthy enough to tell me what was going on and ask for my feedback. That’s what this is all about.
- I appreciate the few students who asked me to write letters of recommendation for them during the spring. I can’t say I expected any of that, but one girl told me, “You actually took the time to get to know me.” That was one of the coolest things I heard all year. I couldn’t be any prouder of the people about whom I got to write.
- I appreciate all the lunch-table talks and library conversations I got to have with hundreds of you. As the year went on, I’d head to those two spots whenever I could because talking to y’all became the best part of my day — and I don’t mean just my school day. It’s easy to tell the difference between people who care and people who don’t. If I decided to spend extra time with you this year, it was a conscious decision because you care.
- I appreciate all the pictures I got at graduation. I’ll have them all up on Instagram at some point. Those are going to mean a lot to me for a very long time.
- I appreciate the fact that the senior class drafted me No. 1 overall to fit nine Munchkins in my mouth, although I got stuck with all the powdered ones and almost threw up all over the gym floor when one of them hit my tonsils.
- I DO NOT appreciate those of you who felt entitled to sitting in my teachers’ chairs, assaulted me with sticky notes, poured water on me, demanded money for ice cream, tricked me into being shocked by a door handle, or think LeBron James is better than Larry Bird.
I know I didn’t do a perfect job this year, and when I become a real-life teacher I won’t be able to do some of the things I did as the intern. But I had a couple of major goals entering this internship and I think I accomplished them (or at least took some steps toward doing so). I undoubtedly learned a whole lot more about teaching than I’d ever learn in a grad-school classroom, but this experience was about way more than that.
I’ve been asked by a couple of grad-school professors to write about my educational philosophy, and every time I end up explaining how subject matter is important, but building relationships with students is essential. There are infinite directions to go in this life, not just the few standard ways that are pressed upon everyone. That’s the beauty of this — everyone is unique in some fashion, and it’s a privilege to get to know what makes you all tick. I’d like to think that no matter what type of student you are, I tried my best to get to know you — your backgrounds, interests, strengths, weaknesses, successes, failures, goals, and intricacies.
Because so many of you gave me the opportunity to do that, I mean it sincerely when I say this probably has been the best year of my life. My only regret is that I only got one year to do it, but I know that the relationships I built with many of you will last much longer in some form or fashion.
For those of you headed off to college in a couple of months, I wish you all the very best of luck in your new world. I’m so thrilled that you guys and girls were my first group of grads, and I know there are so many success stories to come from the class of 2018. Make sure to keep in touch, and if I can ever be of help to you in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
For those of you who will be back at Seymour High in the fall, I hope you approach the changes to come with a positive attitude because that’s where all success begins. Even though I may not be here every day next year, I’ll make sure to pop up every now and then at your games and extracurriculars — and who knows, maybe you’ll see me as a sub after I’m finished student teaching. And just as I offered to the grads, I’m always here if you need help with anything.
Thank you all for being part of the most rewarding year I’ve ever had.
(P.S. I feel so bad for next year’s intern.)