On Being Unforgettable

Teaching grade 8s is always entertaining. But teaching linear grade 8 classes – getting to see the kids all year long, in the same environment – is a different kind of fascinating.

See, they’re in the big time now. High school. Tons of people.

But, right now, they’re still sitting with kids they know from elementary school.

Even if they didn’t know each other well in grade 7, they gravitate toward one another when they end up in class together. And I don’t blame them. There’s a comfort in familiarity. There’s security in knowing someone and being known by them – even if all they know of one another are each other’s names.

So, today, my grade 8s sat with whoever they felt comfortable with. And they’ll probably be in the same spots next week. And likely the week after.

But one day I’ll tell them that it’s time for a seating change.

They’ll gather their things. Stand up. And they’ll know exactly who they want to sit beside. Who they want near them. What groups they want to form around their chosen place.

Initial groupings will be split. New friendships formed. And it’s fascinating to watch – to see how exposure to new people can bring kids out of themselves. To show them that there are options. To make them feel like they can choose a place where they belong.

High school is often the first time this happens – the first time that many are exposed to large groups of diverse peers. Elementary friendships can be limited by the size of the school – by who’s available to form those bonds. High school increases the pool of potential friend candidates. And I love watching my students find their place.

But high school is just one little sliver of life.

I left high school just thirteen years ago. And I talk to two friends that I went to high school with.

Two.

Sure, I have some others on Facebook. I like their statuses and vacation pictures. They like mine. But I haven’t seen them in years. And, for the most part, I’m okay with that.

Because although high school has an expanded group of potential friends, it’s not infinite. It’s limited by the neighbourhood in which the school is located. The socio-economic status of families in the area. Community values. All of the things that give one school a different personality than others.

But it’s amazing what can happen when those limitations are removed. When teens from three cities and seven high schools come together. When you form a rather large core group of friends at the end of your grade 12 year.

Without the limitations of school walls, or license restrictions dictating how many passengers teens could transport, that’s exactly what happened to me thirteen years ago. While I only talk to two friends from my actual high school, I keep in frequent touch with many people from my grad year.

People toward whom I gravitated because of who they are, not where they’re from, or what school they happened to attend.

We’re all different. Wildly different at first glance, actually. But we’re tied together by similarities that go beyond the easily definable.

We’re connected by our drive. Our ambition. Our tenacity. Our eagerness to take on a challenge, and the idea that this life should be the best we can make it – even if we don’t agree on exactly what that is.

So when my friends do amazing things – things I could never do – I want to tell the world about them. I want to stand on a soapbox and yell at the rats in the park until someone, anyone, stumbles by to hear about my friends, their passions, and how they’re busting their asses to make this world a better place in whatever way they’re drawn.

But, erm, I don’t have a soapbox. I’ve never even seen one. But I do have a blog.

And I have a friend named Brad. Who’s amazing.

Brad fronts a band called Pedwell. And, yesterday, Pedwell released the first single from their new album. An album that almost didn’t happen. Which would have been a freaking travesty.

Because Brad’s a wise dude. He has things to share. Good things. And, in his words, “If there’s one legacy I could leave behind, it’s that the work itself is the reward. It’s not always about the end result, so enjoy it while you’re doing it, whatever ‘it’ is.”

High five, my friend.

Listen to Brad’s new tune. Read the lyrics. Remember that we all leave a mark.

So, while my grade 8s flit from group to group, trying on friends as their options grow, I know they’ll eventually find their place – their people.

We all do. Eventually.