How well I remember my last day of high school. The surge of adrenaline that kept building all day, the shout that arose when the last bell sounded, the elation in the parking lot as we exited one last time. Seeking out friends, hugging, jumping up and down, pictures, dancing, tears, primal screams – what an awesome day.
Lost in all that, at least for me, were the teachers. Oh, I said good-bye to my favorite teacher, Mrs. Seiler, but I was her aide first hour, so that wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. I’m sure I said good-bye to the other teachers during the course of the day, but I don’t recall it. And I know that when the last bell rang, I was gone – off to find my friends and celebrate our ascension into quasi-adulthood.
17 years later, I find myself in the other half of the equation. I watched the seniors walk away today, leaving behind the safe confines of high school and venturing out into the world, full of hopes and dreams and fears. This is the fourth year I’ve done this, but man, it doesn’t get any easier. I know I’m still fairly new, and some teachers nod sagely and say “it’ll get old one day” but I hope it doesn’t. I hope my heart always has a happy ache as the fruit of my labor walks through the doors one last time. Because I know that, for the hour a day I had them, I gave them all that I had. I poured myself into making their time with me meaningful, knowing that this day would arrive. I can look any of them in the eye and say with all honesty, “I promise you I did my best, and I hope it made a difference.” And I’ll probably get a lump in my throat (though I’ll keep the tears at bay) as I hear them file out the doors one last time, knowing I will never see the vast majority of them ever again, but also knowing I had given what I had to offer to get them ready for the future. I left it all on the whiteboard (well, literally in this case, as I rarely erase the whiteboard until the next morning).
Saying good-bye is difficult, especially when it is to the people you have given your life to. But it is so rewarding nonetheless. And when kids you haven’t seen in months swing by to tell you thank you (they’re better kids than I was), it makes all the struggles worthwhile.
Good-bye PCEP Class of ’13. I’m looking forward to hearing about the amazing things I’m sure you will accomplish…