I remember it like it was yesterday. I can close my eyes and see my classmates around me crossing the stage as we waited in the lunchroom for the ceremony to be over so we could bust out the door and summer could start. That was thirty-six years ago and last night I sat in the gym watching the same event from my parent’s eyes, except I wasn’t crossing the stage, William was.
It seems impossible to believe but William is on to high school in the fall and I am sure his head is full of grand ideas like mine was. William and I have a lot in common – we are father and son, we should, but beyond that basic connection, there are many ironic similarities to our paths, though his path through school has been far more successful. I struggled and he worked hard and finished each quarter on honor roll, high honor roll – all twelve of them.
For me, 8th grade was a blurrrr. I remember the first day, a brand new school – Sugar Land Junior High School. We were the red and white Trojans. I had gone to Dulles Junior High School in sixth and seventh grades, but the district was growing and the high school needed our campus, so we split in two: half went to two new middle schools – Sugar Land Junior High and Missouri City Junior High. We’d reunite in high school back at the same campus in ninth grade the next year. In eighth grade, I had some familiar teachers, a couple of whom I remember – Mrs. Guinn and Mrs. Atlee, who had been my seventh grade English and RWS teachers, respectively. The school was a new concept in learning called open concept and the departmental areas were all wide-open spaces. You could talk to the kids in the other math classes and hear what teachers were saying. It was easy to get distracted; and for an 8th grade boy that was not at all difficult. William was also in a new building, though he began in sixth grade and his class was the first to make it all the way through, from start to finish.
In a new school, you get many opportunities you don’t get in an old, established school. You get to make choices about new traditions and new ways or approaches to solving the same problem; you get to leave your mark. I have been blessed to be part of a new school both as a student and as a teacher, it’s really cool. At Sugar Land Junior High, it was all new and where I failed or didn’t measure up, William has excelled. I played football and quit after two weeks, he ran cross-country and made the last seven by the end of the season. I dropped out of Boy Scouts during my 8th grade year, William grew as a scout and took on more responsibility. I scraped by with average grades just doing the least and William has done the opposite. There are many other parallels but the main one is in leaving our mark.
SLJHS opened in August 1975, only twenty-five years before the Millennium however, I was not looking that far ahead, but I am glad my teachers were. My one significant memory from that year was being part of the Class of 1976 Time Capsule Project. The plan was to build a time capsule and open it twenty-five years later, just after the Millennium. It was a school-wide project and each department had a part from the design, to the placement, to what went inside the time capsule. In RWS, Mrs. Atlee challenged us to come up with items to put inside the capsule – we brainstormed. I tried to imagine what would be relevant in twenty-five years. I am sure some of the ideas we came up with were, let’s just say, interesting. My friends from that time – David H., Tim C., Jimmy P., and Danny K. all worked hard to think of items or things we could include. I recall, David H., came up with the idea of including a current TV Guide and I came up with an Elton John cassette – both which were selected and included among the many other items. It was buried in ceremony before school let out and I didn’t think about the capsule until twenty or so years later when I was in school to become a teacher in the late 90s.
In 1999-2000, during my first year of teaching, I reached out to the SLJHS administration to find out about plans to unearth and open the capsule. I even visited the school during my Spring Break and got a tour. They had no idea where the capsule was or what had happened to it. As I walked around school that afternoon, I learned much had changed from my days – twenty-four years before. Unfortunately, all the teachers I had from that time had moved on or had retired. I always wondered what had happened to that capsule, would we all laugh at what we placed inside? At age thirteen, or fourteen, twenty-five years is an eternity. Now, it is half of my life and I can see it much more clearly.
So as I sat last night watching and listening to the 8th grade recognition ceremony, I looked back at both of our lives and realized how blessed we truly are. I know William left his mark, he worked hard and learned and grew a great deal. He’s ready for high school, but there’s more learning ahead. Next year, I get to re-live seventh grade, again, and William gets to grow up. Sometimes he makes the same mistakes I did; I probably made the same mistakes my dad did, and so on and so forth. It is all about growing up and, sometimes, learning the hard way; and realizing we have much to learn from one another. Making the Days Count, one ceremony at a time.
What events do you look back on and remember the good and or the bad?