Around this time of year, I start feeling sentimental.
I look at the faces of my students as they finish their last days of the school year and I know all they are thinking is, “I cannot wait for what comes next!” They are planning their near futures, and they are not in the moment, and I suddenly feel sad. Even though I see 127 students a day, I find that I have made a connection, on some level, with almost all of them. As with every year, I end this year knowing I have a strong bond with a few of the students with whom I have grown particularly fond of, and I hope that they are the type of people who will think that staying in touch with a former teacher is not too nerdy.
Today, at two different points, I found myself just taking them in. It is something I do with my own children, when I just stop and allow myself experience the people they have become. It’s always at a time when they are experiencing something and my heart says, “Stop. Look. Breath this moment in. Remember it. Store it away. You have helped mold these people.” I cannot help but smile because I am, as they say, living in the moment, and I am undeniably happy just to be alive and had had the opportunity to experience them. Today, I forced myself to take a mental snapshot– to remember their faces, their smiles, and their personalities.
For my students, these moments in high school are just the stepping-stones and the building blocks to get them into real life. For me, though, it’s different. These moments are my life, and over the course of 180 days, I have gotten to know them not only as students, but as people.
We have shared stories and shared memories. We have inside jokes. I have heard the gossip, and every once in a while, I have taken part in on the conversation. I have gotten over the fact that they walked through my classroom door thinking I was some uncool, middle-aged woman. They have grown as people and have come to realize that age is relative, and I have to think that some of them feel the way I do: If we were the same age, we would be friends.
I know that many of these students will be nothing more than fond memories. Every once in a while, I will hear about one of them, and think, “Wow, So and So has a job now.” “So and So is getting married!” “So and So is having a baby!” I will, from the distant past, cheer their victories.
Yes, the next few days are the hardest part of the year. These people with whom I have forged relationships are going to be quite literally ripped out of my life. It’s like a divorce, and it makes me maudlin and reminiscent. I have only been a part of their lives for an hour a day for a school year. It is nothing to most, but it is something to me, and like any good mother bird, I have to let go and watch them fly away from my comfortable nest so that they can continue to grow into the amazing adults I envision them becoming.