My eighth grade class is pretty special. All my students are special, but the eighth grade is a small class and they are exemplary.
They are good sports about everything. Pretty much everything I've done this year they have been enthusiastic about. Back in late fall/early winter, when we were still reading short stories from our literature book, conversation turned to the novel we'd be starting in January, the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The eighth graders caught wind of the fact that I was picking new novels for the seventh and sixth grades -- novels they themselves had been made to read -- so they asked me if I'd get them a new novel too.
Which is, in fact, pretty much what I said. I told them to trust me, they'd love it. So, as is their way, they said okay.
We started TKM in January when we returned from Christmas break. It was not long before they were hooked.
And yesterday -- yesterday we finished. We closed the book for the last time. And I'm not lying when I say there were some tears. It was wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time. And quite possibly the best teaching day of my life. After I closed my book I just sat there looking at them. And I just let them talk. And this is what they said:
"I can't get over it says 'fiction' on the side. It just seems so real."
"I'm going to find Harper Lee and make her give me the answers [to what happens next]."
"It's like my life is over."
"I will have these characters with me forever."
"It's like my family members died. What do I do now?"
They also came back today telling me they just went home and thought about it, and it's all they've been thinking about.
For an end-of-the-year gift I got all three grades a bookmark specific to their novel from this year. This is the one for eighth grade:
But I was also thinking today I may order each of them their own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird also. They are $5 on Amazon, and there are only 8 students. So I may do that for a graduation gift.
I miss them already.