Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Class of Lincoln High Grads Became Alumni Yesterday

I was looking forward to being able to see the graduation yesterday at good old Lincoln. This time I would have seen Lincoln High's Class of 2009, "The ........... ," -sorry, but I never discovered the "class name" selected by this year's graduating class- but due to scheduling conflicts, personal commitments or however it's phrased, I was unable to attend. This would have been my sixth consecutive year of witnessing the annual ceremony and watching as these high school students, often referred to as "kids," now, in one fell swoop, as its said, officially become "alumni," whether that fact has dawned upon them or not. It's just a fact. And for those already age 18, they begin adulthood as "high school" graduates, with the younger classmates headed for birthdays that will add that tag, "adult," to their personal qualifications.

All this happens sometimes too fast for many of us, and I think for the students too, to really take it all in. In my short time teaching at Lincoln, I had mostly 9th graders as the first students that I met for classroom instruction. For both them and me, it was our initial introduction to education at Lincoln High for the 21st century. Remember, I was in their shoes decades before in this very same school, a truly distant memory- more like history. But at graduation, you see some conclusion to the process. It's where the transformation of sorts over a four year span is finally recognized. It's a milestone in the lives of most people, and one that is increasingly missed by a number students in the confines of the LAUSD in favor of the dreaded option of "dropping out." And that is yet another topic for another day.

I really enjoyed these annual events, and seeing a lot of my former students heading out "on their own," gave me a feeling of both pride and dismay. The pride was there for the accomplishment of the students, however much weight that carries in this day, but it's nevertheless an accomplishment. The dismay came from wondering what level of education was imparted upon them each while at Lincoln, and whether that prepared them for their future, knowing how things are "from the inside" of the school walls as a teacher. It was a real learning experience for us all, especially in those first classes of mine at Lincoln, and coming back to Lincoln for graduations and seeing so many of these same students was itself a reward for my tiny bit of contribution to their LHS career. It was always a pleasant surprise to see that most of them were as pleased- often surprised- to see me come by as I was to see them.

I remember often telling my students that they need to ask questions of teachers now, while we are there to provide answers for them in class. I also added that it was now during class when we can sort through the mistakes that they should be making as we get along in the learning process. This should be important to them, I tried to explain, especially since high school is the last time in life when the education is free for them. I told them that any future instruction for them after high school will be at a cost to them or to someone paying it for them, a fact that they probably will not fully comprehend until they are presented with a tuition bill. But you, as a teacher, are only one of many each day for them, and some of what you say might be taken to heart and some is rejected, or equally often, I suspect, plainly missed.

But all that material detracts from the graduation that Lincoln hosted yesterday, a really high point for a high school student. And it's nearly, but not quite, a high point for those just missing out in participating in it by either being short a few units in meeting the requirements that are spread over four years, or, being kept back by not clearing the California High School Exit Exam, or "CaHSEE," as it's more commonly known in the vernacular of the educational system. For all attending the ceremony, there is a lot of pride and joy that the event brings, and probably a bit of relief for some or maybe even some anxiety beginning as parents will wonder what will be next for their children.

The whole topic is really too big for even my long postings here as I bounce back a lot of thoughts collected over the years, and I will just say to this class, "Congratulations" and "Enjoy the moment." Lastly, one thing that seems to remain over the years for L.A. area graduations, barely changed, if at all, is "Grad Nite" at Disneyland. It is something of a tradition itself that I have urged students not to miss, maybe for the simple fact that it IS tradition and that it makes this particular rite of passage complete.