It was the last day of classes for the seniors. The halls pulsated with the intense emotions of saying goodbye (and for some saying good riddance). In many ways, it was a completely ordinary day. Classes started at 8AM and ended at 3:25PM. Lessons were taught and questions were asked. Homework was collected and projects were presented. Yet, this was a “special day” to be a senior. Those presented projects were final exams, it was the last lunch in the cafeteria, and the last time they would walk through the halls as the collective class of 2013. The Juniors excitedly assumed their position as the next oldest class in the building, each walking more confidently as they took the reins of the school from the seniors and flooded into the “cool place to hang out,” the school’s foyer. Many shed tears, hugs, handshakes, and other mischievous glances. The big fish in the little pond were ready to splash out of this neighborhood and be transferred into their new habitat. The funny thing about fish though is that moving into a new home is a shock for any creature and particularly stressful for fish. I hope they all settle well into their new college environments in the Fall.
One of the school’s traditions on this momentous last day is “Senior Send Off.” The entire upper school gathers, and the seniors take the stage to share where they are heading off to college next year and their favorite memory from their time here at our little private school. Dressed in their college swag, they approach the microphone individually and in pairs. Proud to be donning their new colors, they share inside jokes, shout-outs to teachers, gush about boyfriends/girlfriends, laugh about silly (and sometime sightly hazardous occurrences), and share other razbliuto with the school. During this assembly, I am teary-eyed. These students were freshmen when I was a freshmen teacher. Totally feeling out of place, unprepared, and distressed my first year of teaching, this little class taught me how to be a teacher. There is nothing you can google on how to do this job right. I was lucky when I was hired to this position with no experience and nothing but bright eyes and a promised strong work ethic to support my candidacy.
I remember that first day, what I wore, how my hands shook with nerves, and that I probably came across as mean, or at least as cold, since I didn’t want to give off the impression that I was clueless. These students taught me how to answer questions, plan activities, adjust to different learning styles, write tests, grade papers, but most importantly about how to build real and authentic relationships (friendships even) with my students. I laughed the hardest with them and probably cried the most as I figured out this emotionally demanding career. In some ways, their graduation day is my graduation day. Some of these students I even taught for all four of their years of high school. I guess the best part of being a teacher is that everyday is different, yet comfortingly the same, every student is different, yet needs similar stuff like support, patience, guidance, and push to do the heavy lifting with their brain muscles. I still have so much to learn and I hope that I will be saying this when I retire too. But, even so, this class in particular will always hold a special place for me. When I got a few shout-outs yesterday, my first in my four years of teaching, I was so proud. Not because I wanted to toot my own horn but because it helped cement in me that this is the right place, this is the right profession, and that even when it is hard those moments of appreciation are soul warming.