Well, that happened to me today.
I was observing my 8th period Advanced Placement Literature and Composition seniors discuss Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. They listened to each other, and thought carefully about their comments, and found quotes in the book to support each other’s points, and looked at details I have never considered myself (hello, separate male and female spittoons as symbols of patriarchy and oppression). They made me like the book even more than I already do.
These AP Lit kids, they slay me.
They chose to take this class, despite ample reasons not to. Their peers decided they were exhausted after 13 years of often monotonous education and rewarded themselves with an easier honors English course. Their peers realized that no college could give them credit for both AP Lit and AP Lang, and decided the extra work wasn’t worth it. Their peers chose to be at the top of an honors class, with a solid chance at an A, instead of risking a probable B and falling in the middle of the pack. There's no shame in any of those choices.
Oh, but what they get makes me weep with pride for their choice. They get weekly opportunities to improve their writing, emerging in May better at structure, argument, evidence, analysis and style. They get to talk about fine poetry and prose with others who are as fascinated by the written word as they are. They get to challenge themselves to think and write at the highest level, and to do so under time and emotional pressure. They get to question what people mean when they write (or say) what they do, and how we can look deeply at those words to figure it out.
I am dazzled by them, every single day. I’m inspired by them to find better ways to help them grow, and to push myself as a writer and thinker. Many of them are far stronger writers and thinkers than I am, even now, at 44 years old, and I am humbled by them. All of them work to get better, with every essay, every discussion. They work so hard, because they know the reward isn’t a grade, or a test score, but the knowledge that only they carry – that they took on a hard task for no other reason but because the challenge was worthy, and put in their best effort, and grew as a result. That knowledge, that confidence in themselves, that’s something that no one can ever take from them, and it’s priceless.
I’m dazzled, inspired, humbled, but most of all I’m in love.