Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Long Goodbye

We are in the homestretch of the school year here.  I look at my 60-day planner on my office wall and see that I have only May left (and a teensy-bit of April).  For me, May is a crazy, hectic, mad dash of a month.  You blink and it is over.  You start your day with a to-do list five miles long and end your day with a to-do list that is ten miles longer.  As a school counselor who serves students in grades 7, 8, 9 and all of our career tech kids (that would be 10-12 grades for those of you who aren't in the school business) I am in the middle of excitement, elation and sadness. 

My youngest group remind me of the ping-pong balls in a lottery machine right now-all bouncing against the clear glass furiously as each tries to shoot up the cylinder into importance.  The 7th grade teens know in a matter of moments they will rule the building.  They will carry the mantle of seniority.  The 8th graders want to blast into high school with aplomb-some dragging their junior high popularity with them, some dreaming of remaking their image in a new setting (even if it is mere steps next door).  Oh to be fourteen...

The ninth grade students are anxious to shed the freshman label and move right into the category of experience and knowledge.  They wish to be bored sophomores, with that "been here, done that" air.  The ones who stand idly by during pep rallies rolling their eyes and folding their arms.  The class who rarely, if ever, wins a cheer contest.  They have conquered the freshman year and are so over it.

Now, my teens at our career tech school are upperclassmen-affixed with the sense of responsibility and purpose.  They see the end is near.  Some wish to grasp that ring and fling themselves into the world yesterday.  Some are terrified of it.  Tomorrow I will be meeting with this fantastic group of students for the final time of the school year and I will see all of this in their eyes.

My last large group meeting is always bittersweet for me.  I have had some of these students since they were little thirteen year-old seventh graders.  Entering that world of junior high, filled with anxiety.  Tomorrow's stated purpose is to discuss prom, post prom and graduation information.  But for me it is also a chance to see all of their faces at one time, for one last time.  I end this meeting with just my seniors-having sent the juniors on their merry way.  When I tell them it is the last time we will all be in a room together as a group, I always get emotional.  I feel like their mother hen.  I am bursting with pride over their accomplishments, yet once they leave the nest of school, we lose track of them-not getting to see all the wonderful things they do in the world.  This is what makes me wistful and a bit sad.

May is truly a long goodbye for those of us in the school business.  Yes, it is filled to the brim with activity, ceremonies, events and more.  Yet it is also a month where we do everything "one last time."  I may get frustrated with my students, irritated, fed up, but this month I am reminded again why I do what I do.  And it is because I want nothing more than to be a cheerleader on the sideline of their lives.  Hoping to be a little part of who they become as they step out of childhood and into the wide, wide world of adulthood.  So May, bring it.  I can totally do this (again).  Just bring a few boxes of tissues with you.