Teaching Seniors – The Joy & The Sorrow

The coming of May brings sheer delight to the hearts of students everywhere. Teachers too, for that matter. The rhythm of the school year proclaims, loudly, that enough is enough. It is time for everyone to take a break. We’ll start again in August and have another go.

If you’ve ever taught high school seniors, or if you know someone who has, you know that seniors in springtime can be a bit challenging. They feel, and rightly so, that it is time to be moving on. I say rightly so, because if they want to linger around and stay behind, we as their teachers and parents and community that loves them, haven’t done our job. We are here to prepare them for the beyond, so it is both good and right that they be eager for that beyond.

So there is both joy & sorrow in their departure. By neither of these terms do I mean frustration or difficulty. There is plenty of that in dealing with second semester seniors, to be sure, but it is part of the territory and frankly, not worth complaining about. I actually mean the joy and sorrow of seeing students you have grown to care about leave, for I find each spring, as I eagerly greet May, that I feel plenty of both.

There is joy in seeing them both ready and excited to go. There is sorrow at the thought that our time together has come to an end. It is heavy, sometimes, to think about starting all over again with a new crop of students, back at square one, just when you were beginning to feel that so much progress had been made, that together, we had come so far.

In a sense, I suppose, that is true of all teachers, not just teachers of seniors. However, most do not face the additional sorrow of bidding a more permanent farewell. Teachers of underclassmen at least know they will see their former pupils around the building. For teachers of seniors, there is only graduation and goodbye. Yes, from time to time, an email comes from one or another, and then someone else drops by at Thanksgiving or Christmas to say hello. But, these points of contact and visits diminish over time, as they are meant to, and time flows on.

The good news, of course, is that the cycle repeats itself, and by the middle of the Fall semester, the new classes feel right and natural, and the years roll on, only pausing each spring so we can bid a momentary farewell to another class. It is the joy & sorrow of teaching, and even though it is hard sometimes, I wouldn’t change it, even if I could. It is the way things are meant to be.