Not too many posts have been going up on this blog lately. Not because I haven’t been writing (I’ve actually been writing regularly and about a lot of different stuff) but because I’ve decided to carefully select which ones I want to put out there, you know? I want to keep some of my thoughts private.
So what made me write one today, you might wonder. Well last night I said ‘farewell’ to the graduating batch of 2014 and farewells are just not my thing. I’m terrible with goodbye’s and it got me wondering why I struggle so much to let go.
You see, every year I enter new classrooms and find before me about 25 -30 young teenagers waiting for me to take them through another year of new learning.
So I tell them about the brilliant works of Shakespeare, we argue about the relevance of ancient plays and the verbosity of old English prose. We interpret poetry, marvel at authors’ use of language and the complex rules of grammar. Through it all, together we derive life-affirming lessons from literature. We discover great wisdom; cheeky anecdotes and profound truths that help us understand the complexities of life just a little bit better.
Gradually I push them forward, towards new learning, insight, and understanding and towards another year in their school career. That’s how the system works.
But you see, as a teacher I have this unwritten deal with all of my students; thoughts that I don’t think need to be articulated and therefore it remains a deal I never tell them about. But once they’ve moved on to another year – possibly a new teacher, that deal continues to be.
While they move on, I (and I think all good teachers do the same) spend the rest of my days entertaining hopes and dreams for their future success – lives of grandeur and big achievements. I continue to watch from the sidelines as they become men and women ready to take on the world.
After investing so much into what we do (emotionally and other-wise) it’s rather difficult to simply say ‘good bye’ and not know where the road ahead will lead them. We know that as bright and hopeful it may seem, the path ahead will be a difficult one. One that is fraught with struggles and successes, achievements and losses, love and heart breaks none of which we could prepare them for, no matter how much we try.
I’ve discussed this with some of my more experienced colleagues and while some have taken the time to hear me out others have simply put it down to the fact that I’ve ‘only been teaching for eight years’. ‘You’ll get used to it with time’, they say. – But I’m not so sure. After spending years together in the crowded confines of a classroom, saying goodbye can never really be easy.
So reluctantly I let go in the hope that wherever they go and whatever they do it will all work out well. I believe that in my time with them I did everything I could and taught them everything I knew about how to deal with life. In my heart there is a calm assurance that no matter what happens they’re going to be ok. I know that if they meet me ten years down the line, my eyes will still light up when I see them and my heart will still swell with so much pride that the bond we share today will ring alive and loud years and years later.
I’ve realized that graduations are inevitable and while there is a tinge of sorrow in those farewells, the overwhelming emotion will always be pride and great joy. I was totally ambushed by those very emotions while writing this post, I’m sentimental that way, soppy even and I know many people in my field frown upon that. They say it gets better with time and that the platitudes will come easy. But I hope *I* don’t change. This is me. Every day I wake up happy and I give a 100% to the kids I teach. We laugh, we learn, we become a part of each other’s lives and saying goodbye will never be easy because of the amount of love and respect I receive in return.
So I think the departure of my students will continue to bring a tear or two to my eye, and I think that’s perfectly acceptable. While I watch them go, I’ll pray that my efforts have not been in vain. I’ll remind myself that my influence on their lives is permanent, positive and long-lasting and that as teachers, in our own small way; we’ve just changed the world for the better because of the kind of people they’ve turned out to be.