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The Whiteboard Jungle: ‘Good kid’ makes father proud

The end of high school for seniors is often bittersweet for their teachers, who may have known the students for up to four years.

The end of high school for a parent of a senior, however, resonates deeper, for it marks a significant rite of passage.

One senior graduating this year, in particular, means a great deal to me. He is my son.

People who know Ben frequently comment that “he’s a good kid.” Any parent would be proud of a child who generates that reaction from others.

Goodness is in short supply in today’s world. It does not show up on a standardized test.

Ben is very polite, always responding to a meal at home with a “thank you for the tacos” without any prodding; it comes naturally to him.

I overhear him talk to grown-ups on the phone, asking “How are you?” interested in having an adult-like conversation.

He makes his own breakfast of eggs and oatmeal each morning, and often assists me with dinner.

He engages in adult-like perceptions on politics and the world. Our family TV time is watching “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN and “60 Minutes” on Sundays.

He knows cultural history, recognizing an Ella Fitzgerald vocal or an Alfred Hitchcock film.

He has a taste for long-established restaurants such as the Smoke House.

He doesn’t mind getting dressed up to go out for dinner or picking up after the dog in the backyard.

He rarely wants anything. His iPhone is not new, his car as old as he is.

He still sleeps in the same bed that he got back in elementary school, though lies diagonally, accommodating his nearly 6-foot frame.

His only luxury is a flat-screen TV that he uses primarily for playing video games on his PlayStation 4.

Something else Ben does: when he is out, he always calls us (not texts) when he is coming home. This is not something that we have demanded; it comes from Ben’s own sense of responsibility.

What is the recipe for a good kid? Along with love and support from family and friends, Ben’s teachers deserve recognition: kindergarten teacher, Ms. Solyom; third grade-teacher, Ms. Rostomyan; fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Essex; sixth-grade social science teacher, Ms. Lamb; sixth-grade P.E. teacher, Ms. Asmussen; seventh-grade English teacher, Mr. Martin; eighth-grade English teacher, Mr. Rothacher; biology teacher, Mr. Margve; astronomy teacher, Mr. Movsessian; AP psych teacher, Mr. Collazos; AP English-lit teacher, Mr. McNiff; and AP U.S. history teacher, Mr. Thomson.

My wife and I were amazed as his maturity blossomed earlier this year. Within a matter of weeks, he made the decision to attend Cal State, Northridge and got his first job.

It was a surreal feeling to have my photo taken with my son in front of Oviatt Library at Cal State, Northridge, where I graduated 35 years ago.

Back then, the idea that one day I would have a son who would attend the same college as I did was not even a flicker of a thought in my mind.

When we moved into our house 18 years ago, Ben was 3 months old. Today, in that same bedroom lives an 18-year-old. Oh, the baby still lives in the man. You can it in his eyes, his smile and the way he speaks. And you can see his younger brother looking up at him from an early age, absorbing Ben’s life as a textbook on how to grow up.

Ben, you have had a good life, so far. I hope you continue being good and doing good in the years to come.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,00 Teacher.” He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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