Celebrating a New Step

Last night I found myself in my black Master’s cap and gown and hood (Go Broncos!) for the seventh time (well, eighth if you count my own graduation from WMU).  As the staff gathered in the Media Center I looked around me.  There were faculty who were new to our school this year who were struggling to figure out how to attach the hood to their gown.  There were also staff members who had been through this ritual over 30 times.

In the cafeteria was a sea of blue and white.  Everyone straightening their caps, fixing their cords, questioning their tassel position.  Each gown dotted with a tiny green ribbon reminding us all of the graduate who was missing.

Pomp and Circumstance.

A parade of black and blue and white.

As I sat down, I looked around the gym.  So many happy faces.  I see past students, parents, friends.  I see balloons and flowers and cow bells.  I see camera flashes and ecstatic mothers.  I see tears.

Last week, my seniors in my Speech class gave farewell speeches.  One student stood up and told the class he was going to be the first in his family to graduate from high school.  This started a chain reaction of sharing.  First graduates in families.  First girl to not get pregnant in high school.  First male to not go to jail.  It was amazing.  Last night I picked out all my students and saw their families just beaming for them.

It occurred to me last night that while every year it is mandatory for staff to show up at 6:30 and get cap and gown in tact, it is not every year that these parents watch their babies graduate.  It’s the first time for many of them.  I knot formed in my throat.

The senior speeches were given.  This year the theme was superheroes.  Each speaker urged the class of 2010 to not let life happen to them, to not be the victim, but to make things happen for themselves.  To take life and live it.  They urged the graduates not to settle and to race toward their passions in life.  The speeches struck a cord because looking around, I wonder how many of us are really doing this.  How many of us adults are taking a stand against settling? 

Part of my job as senior class adviser is to aid in the calling of the names.  I help pace the students before their names are called.  Each senior has to pass by me.  A few hugged me–even though the whole gym was watching.  Many smiled and told me, “I did it, Mrs. Sluiter.”  Some even showed their nerves, “I’m scared.  I’m not ready for this.”

I reassured each one.  I listened as parents and friends cheered. 

Each student was cheered for.  The class of 2010 saw to that.  They cheered for each other so no one went without a “WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

After the last graduate passed by me, I led my half of the staff to line the way for the recessional.  Students shook our hands; many popped my personal bubble and gave me giant hugs.  They promised to visit.  Some even thanked me.

This is why I love my job.  This is why I can’t imagine not being part of the education system.  This is why I will continue to rage against the broken machine.

Because I have to.  For them.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Kimberly says

    It is a great job you all do! I have a profound respect for all teachers!!! It is a very difficult job!!! It takes a special person to be a teacher so thank you!!!

  2. Those graduation nights are the "big payoff" for why you deal with the political BS of administration, budget cuts, and reassignment. Every one of those students are a greater asset to society because you were there for them when they needed you to be a part of their lives, be it a personal situation or academic. Keep on raging against that machine!

  3. What a beautiful picture you painted! I can tell you are an amazing teacher and have the respect of your students! I can't imagine the day when it's our boys walking across that stage. It'll be here before we know it.

  4. This is exactly how I felt as I hugged each of the students in my homeroom as they stepped up on the stage at graduation this year. They DID it. They made it. WE made it.

  5. designHER Momma says

    This is beautiful.

  6. Mama Hen says

    What a great post! I miss teaching. It is so amazing to watch students learn and accomplish their goals! Then to watch them graduate is really great! It is nice that you wrote about your experience. Thank you for sharing!

    Mama Hen

  7. missy widener says

    LOVE this. and I would love it even more if you will teach my children someday. but they are NEVah going to be high schoolers so yeah…..but you rock. you are so wonderful.

  8. Jeremy and Tonya says

    It does make all the crap worth it. Just a few weeks ago I was sitting with a student who came to me as a non-reader. I sat and listened to him read an almost grade level book fluently. It was the most beautiful, amazing thing I've ever heard. I almost started crying. It still makes me tear up just thinking about it. We are lucky to have such an amazing profession.

  9. Anonymous says

    Katie, that was amazing to read. It's hard to remember good endings throughout the year as we struggle to "reach" kids and get everything done. What you wrote made me cry. Thank you for reminding me why I teach!

    ~~Sarah Garcia