Gal­lons of tears and hun­dreds of hugs at the fi­nal farewell

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - SUE FREESTONE -

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.

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