When I get my students in the fall, they're still basically juniors in high school. They're not fully cooked yet. The role of "senior" still belongs, in their minds, to the previous graduating class. And they spend the fall trying on these new mature roles, and falling back into their immaturity when they get uncomfortable being "all grown up."
But there's a turning point during early February where most of the kids decide that it's the immaturity that's uncomfortable. They, almost in spite of themselves, spend more time being adults than not. The irrefutable evidence of college acceptance, impending graduation, even turning the magical age of 18--it all contributes to a transformation that is the reason I love teaching high school kids.
Today, a boy who spent most of the fall flinging himself into doors to get a laugh and telling fart jokes to gross the girls out spent 45 minutes discussing a novel by Barbara Kingsolver in a level of detail I don't usually even see in adult book clubs. I listened in on his group's discussion with wonder and pride.
It's this same wonder and pride that I have when my students get an A on their first college essay, declare a major, get married, have a baby. It's the proof that what I do all day is teach people...not English, not paper writing, not test proctoring. Each test score, GPA, per-pupil dollar represents a human being, who will grow and mature in part under my watch. Getting to actually see it when it happens? Truly, significantly amazing.