I remember the first batch of seniors I said goodbye to. I was a brand new teacher and had just spent the last six months, an hour and a half a day, talking, reading, and writing with them in a creative writing class.
Then came that final class period. They shuffled in laughing and excited about the ceremony and parties to come. I, too, felt joy and a celebratory spirit. The mood was a festive one.
Some of the things we teachers say to graduating seniors that last day: “What are your plans after graduation? Okay, goodbye! Good luck and take care! Keep in touch!”
And then they walk out the door.
How do we measure the time we’ve spent in high school? In the beginning, we measured it in class periods, counting down the day to eventual freedom. As the days and weeks passed, we measured it in terms, and later in years as we moved from being those clueless seven graders, to becoming sophisticated eleven graders who thought they had it all figured out.
And now here we stand. Our rule is over, and it’s up to the next class to step into our shoes and take over. I know that as I look out at all of you, you will measure my time here in a much different way. You will measure it in all the friendships you’ve enjoyed these last five years. Some were pretty casual and others were much closer, but you’ll remember each one fondly. And when many of our high school memories begin to fade, that’s how you will ultimately measure the time you spent here, not in periods or terms or years, but in the friendships that you made and the times we shared together.
I found from my own years teaching seniors and in my discussions with twelfth-grade teachers: There is no activity or gesture too small when it comes to saying goodbye to graduating students.