For 38 years, Carl Bosch has proudly watched the growth his students undergo during their middle school years.
It’s Carl Bosch’s last year teaching. He’s counting down the days and chronicling his final year for us each week. Check out the rest of his posts here.
School photos adorn a large bulletin board in my office. I have 259 eighth-graders who I have known since they entered my school in sixth grade. On that iconic board, nestled in close symmetry, are three pictures of each child. One for sixth, one for seventh, and one for eight grade. My students, ages 10 or 11 at the outset in their first photo, are now passing through their 13th or 14th year. The board is one of the favorite stops for anyone who enters my office: student, parent or teacher. Nowhere is adolescent growth reflected more clearly or definitively than in the face of a student who is moving through childhood into that older realm. A frozen photograph captured in time, displaying, for the entire world, the people they used to be. Students exclaim, “Oh my God, look at Ann!” “Do you see Rob in sixth grade?” Or “Shane has to shave now!”
In this photo, a cherubic face filled with baby fat has given way to a leaner, more angular look. A young girl who wore no make-up as she entered from elementary school now sports an entire look of mascara and eyeliner. In his sixth-grade picture here’s a boy who looks like he’s eight, now he’s solidly left childhood behind. One girl has jettisoned her eyeglasses, her little girl haircut, and her braces. She’s barely recognizable. A boy with hair past his shoulders now looks his full 14 years with a shorter cut. The changes go on and on. The eyes become more set. The line of jaw and cut of maturity firms many faces.
Those outward images can only symbolize the changes that have gone on within each student. Some have weathered divorces, moved to different homes, battled the stresses of school and athletic tryouts, and experienced their first crush. They’ve grown older, more experienced, and worldly. In addition, many have lost something or gently said goodbye to a simple, more innocent life. There is no unlearning the facts of the world that have come to them. You can see it in their faces.
At the end of the year I will invite each student in to my office and give them the three pictures off the wall. I’ll suggest that they tape them together in the back of the yearbook or place them somewhere to remain a triad memory. Nowhere will they have a three-year change so dramatic, clear, and visually evident. In my three-year rotation with students, when the pictures are removed from my corkboard, I can often see the outline where the sun has etched around each set of pictures. It is like they have left shadows. They somehow remain, yet both they and their pictures will have left me.
I wonder how they will look in pictures yet to be taken.
Countdown: 10,035 days down, 140 left