Gallons of tears and hundreds of hugs at the final farewell
THIS IS a strange time of year for teachers. On the one hand, it is wonderful that the long summer break is upon us; on the other, many of us will be gripped by a strange sense of melancholia. After all, we have just said goodbye to a cohort of young people, many of whom will have been our friends since they were 5 or even younger.
It is a time for celebration and joy, looking forward to the long summer ahead and adventures beyond. Yet for many, it is also bittersweet: a time of sadness, a time of remembrance, a time of final farewells.
It can be pretty frightening, too. For none more so than boarding pupils, for whom it is the end of life as they know it. The boarding house will have been their home for more of any given year than their family household, and friends and those who care for them have become their families. Like most schools, we try to help manage the wrench. We organise events to mark the rite of passage, including “proms” and leavers’ balls where, amid the revelry, tears will be shed for a shared life that will soon be gone forever. In our case, we end with a final cathedral service to see our leavers on their way.
It is a very moving occasion; it confronts the moment of loss and the grief that parting brings. Gallons of tears are shed and hundreds of hugs are shared that final morning. This year was no exception.
The end of a school year is so special because it is about the whole school community, the teachers, the people who prepare our meals and maintain our spaces; it acknowledges the part they each play in our daily experience of what a school is. Above all, it is about the friendship at a time of heightened emotions when the world our students experience is vivid and clear. As we get older and more battered by the world, most of us never invest ourselves in friendships in the same way again. Shared experience is a huge part of what defines us; to be able to talk with people who have been through the same journey reinforces our own sense of self.
It is one of life’s delights; sharing memories of our journey is an important aspect of keeping ourselves grounded and remembering who we really are.
New relationships may well eclipse early friendships for a while but happily these days, thanks to social media, it is easy to keep in touch with school friends and revisit past exploits.
Teachers are given credit for what they bring to a young person’s life, but what some of our students give us in return is incalculable
Meanwhile, for teachers, whose lives may have revolved around the departing students for a number of years, saying goodbye can also be tough. It is something we learn to manage but it is very hard to lose a student who has enriched school life through what they have given and the person they have been. Teachers are given credit for what they bring to a young person’s life, but what some students give us in return is incalculable. That’s why we keep going and keep saying farewell.
If we’ve done our job, our students are both heartbroken to leave and raring to be gone at the same time.