Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sad Goodbyes are the Best Ones

Tomorrow my 8th graders graduate. Today I suffered the requisite bout of sadness and nostalgia. I get downright depressed at the close of the school year. The thought of not seeing my students' smiling faces almost brings me to tears.

Then summer comes, the sadness vanishes and I wonder what brought me so low.

"Graduation goggles" (coined by the TV show How I Met Your Mother) accurately describes the rose-colored glasses we sometimes wear during big life changes. When a stage of life is coming to an end, we tend to view everything and everyone in the best light.

Teachers live in a rhythm of goodbyes and graduations. Every year I say goodbye to students I've developed relationships with over four or more years (I teach at a K-8). Students who I've watched transform from children who arrived in my class in 5th grade, to young adults leaving in 8th. This year its worse because I really liked these 8th graders. They were particularly kind-hearted and selfless, and excelled in my class.

Maybe I'm more nostalgic than most male teachers. Since I was little, the finality of the passing of time struck me as deeply somber. Each moment, day, year, only happens once and takes me a little closer to the inevitable end. So I find myself trying to hold onto all the moments, little and big. I blog and keep a journal sporadically. I never delete emails no matter how banal, and have kept every letter, note or card I've ever been given since elementary school.

As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that if I'm really down about something ending, it means it must have been pretty great. Sad goodbyes are the best ones because that means that period of time really meant something.

I'll be sad tomorrow. And it's a good thing. I love my job. I love teaching social studies. The constant stream of positive feedback and praise from students and parents boosts my soul. Being a teacher is part of my identity. It's tough to see it end.

Until summer comes and the graduation goggles come off. I'll find interests and hobbies old and new to pass the time. And I'll be sad all over again when summer ends and I have to start getting up early, grade papers, and deal with students plagiarizing Wikipedia and thinking I won't know.

I love summer and always will, but I hope I'm always sad at graduation. I hope I keep my graduation goggles. Because if I didn't care, it wasn't worth it.

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