Monday, July 1, 2013

Slice of Life July 2, 2013 - Boys to Men

Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz
host "Slice of Life"  on their

Thursday, I watched as this group of boys, whom I taught in high school, proved to me that they were men.  It was the wedding of a former student, and I was able to catch up with nine of "My Kids." They are an inspiration to me personally, and the  inspiration for this week's Slice of Life.

Me (with the tie) and seven of "My Kids"

The invitation said, Wedding starts promptly at 11ish, and at 11:40, under a crystal blue mountain sky, the assembled wedding party proceeded to squawk a cacophony of crow calls, to let the bride know her cue had come. The men (my kids) were dressed in dark jeans, long-sleeved shirts, black vests and newsboy hats.  The moment the bride walked in, the groom, obviously overwhelmed, had tears of emotion streaming down his face.  It was sweet, it was real.  He wiped the tears away with the back of his hat and had honest, non-judgmental support from all his friends to carry on.  He managed to mostly hold it together, give his own vows of commitment and hear equally unique, fun and teary vows from his bride.  References were made to Monty Python, The Princess Bride, and we shouted in Spanish (none of them are remotely Hispanic but they all took Spanish) to support their commitment.  The wedding was short, unique, funny, typical in moments, and utterly true to the two people getting married and the wondrous influences upon them from their friends and family. 

I’ve always referred to all my students as “my kids” but some have been more “my kids” than others.  My science classroom always had an open door during the nine years I taught high school and over that time, several groups of kids chose to hang out there outside of class time. 

This group of boys was among my last group of "my kids" from my first teaching job. They graduated in 2007, the year I moved back to my hometown and my current teaching job.  Several were younger siblings of previous students of mine so they were comfortable hanging in my room within a few weeks of starting high school.  We had four years with each other, even when they did not have classes with me.  By their senior year, we were friends, with a few awkward moments when I had to be “the teacher” to keep things in line at school. 

In a small high school, in a small farm town, these boys were not the athletes, the dopers, or the nerds.  Some were on the honor role.  Others could have been but didn’t care to be, or were the disengaged gifted child we’ve all seen in our careers.  They did FFA, drama, baseball, and yearbook.  They lived the tough life of having their confidence bloom later with girls, of being put in the “friend zone,” of being just enough outside of the social norm that people could not categorize them so they were ignored.  But they relied on each other, made it safe to be weird, and to be themselves.  By the time they were upperclassmen, they could not be ignored and were at their own level of general acceptance and coolness among the their peers.  They even got some confidence and girlfriends--or at least dates.  At graduation, they gave knightly “Hurrah’s” to each other as they took possession of their diplomas.  They left.  I left.  A few emails, friends on Facebook, letters of recommendation.  Three years ago several were going to the Renaissance Fair near me and we arranged to meet for breakfast.  That morning, my wife’s water broke so instead I went to the hospital and met my daughter.  A worthy excuse-- but I had not seen most of them since May 2007.

The reception, was a comfortably unscheduled affair.  It was held in a covered pavilion, open on two sides including an amazing view of the mountain scenery.  People sat where they wished, ate when they wanted and eventually got around to a few teary and heartfelt toasts.  I managed to catch up with my boys in one way or another.  We talked of jobs, furthered education, a first year of teaching, making sandwiches at Subway, losing parents, first children, new hobbies, the death of a child and the possibilities of the future.  We did not talk politics--we know better after our Facebook posts.  Some are in graduate school, some never went to college.  They are single, dating, just married, or married with a new baby. They are in relatively stable jobs or in transition.  They are all taller, heavier, hairier, older, and still are also “my kids,” willing to be fun and silly (see the picture below).  They still know who they are at heart, know who they are as a group and those things will allow them all to find success, in one form or another.  They are men.
Always ready for a few shenanigans 


  1. It's a really loving post, Max. What a gift you gave to them, have given too, to be there, to be their friend! I loved the way you wrote about the different kinds of students. Obviously you know high school kids very well indeed. I'm happy for you that you went, and imagine that you are happy too!

  2. Thanks Linda. It was really special for me to see them again and to celebrate the wedding. Like old friends, there is a comfortableness that goes along with seeing them, even years later.

  3. This is an awesome post, Max. I'm so glad you shared your kids with us. They've grown into men. What a wonderful connection you have with them!

  4. I am proud of those guys! Thanks for the feedback Stacey.