Well, it's starting again. Every year at this time, I am up to my neck in preparations for 8th grade theatre awards. This is a really cool night, one of my favorite of the year. We have a slide show featuring pictures of each child in each of they plays they participated in ( I know, it should be "in which they participated" but that was too many "ins"). Then, I read a letter about each of the students--focusing on their unique contributions, their positive contributions and so on.
And as I do this, it hits me like a ton of cliches that this is almost over. Soon, they will leave me. Every year, it happens and hurts more than I can say.
I'm excited for them, I'm proud of them, and I know it's time for them to move on. And yet. I've been working with some of these kids since they were 1st graders! 7 years and 11 plays--that's a lot of memories. A lot of laughter, a lot of tears. I've seen them grow up from cute little kids to awkward adolescents and now, to poised and talented young men and women. I've seen them navigate the strange new world of middle school, seen them push themselves, seen them fail, and seen them succeed beyond what they thought was possible.
One of the things about working with people in theatre is that it is incredibly intense--you spend long periods of time together in a sort of emotional foxhole. Theatre people tend to grow very close, and that is true with my students. They become part of me, wiggling their boisterous, crazy way into my cantankerous heart.
And then they leave--probably never quite aware of just how much they mean to me.
Yes, some of them may come back and visit, but it's never quite the same. I shall not see them on a day to day basis--and that makes me sad.
Teaching is like parenting. You pour your heart and soul into the kids, giving them everything you can and hoping it's enough. The intensity of the effort leads to a corresponding intensity of attachment and you become genuinely fond of them. You can't teach students for three or more years without growing a bit attached. With your own children, it's hard when they leave, but you know they are still yours, and that you will see them again. Not so with students. The reality is that I will not see most of them after they graduate.
Yes, life will go on. Yes, there are far greater problems in the world today. But, it still aches a bit.
I'm often told by parents or peers who don't teach something like, "You have the best job." It's usually said with envy, as if all I do everyday is float from life-changing experience to life-changing experience.
I do have a wonderful job, but it has highs and lows, like any other job. There are trade-offs. Teachers trade material reward for emotional or psychological pay-offs. But it is the very nature of that compensation--the emotional connection--that also can make some moments quite painful.
But, I'm reminded again, as I am every year at this time, that there cannot be any love with pain, no growth without loss. To be totally comfortable and free of sadness or heartache would mean being shielded against growth and feeling. You can only savor the sweet if you are willing to taste the bitter.
Life will go on. These 8th graders will leave next month and I will feel like someone has grabbed my heart and soul and broken it into dozens of pieces. And then a new crop will be there--excited, eager, ready to conquer the world, full of zest and energy.
Their joy and vivacity will soothe the sadness I feel and I'll get used to them--we'll laugh and learn together and go through those same foxholes.
And then it will all start again. I'll write a very similar post next springs. I assume it will be this way as long as I teach. I hope so at least. If I am ever not sad and sentimental that my students are leaving, it would mean something has gone wrong.
Life is cycles--loss and gain, sweet and bitter. Winter and spring. The trick, I suppose, is to be excited that spring comes every year, not sad that winter does, too.
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