Thursday, May 31, 2012

And the Greatest of These

For the Senior class, the seasons of "lasts" starts fairly early at CAJ, with the last Senior concession sale in late February/early March.  A steady stream of "lasts" continues from that point on: last concerts, last Thrift Shop, last chapel, last Far East, last APs, last homeroom, last Community Group, last essay, last test, and so on.

I guess because it started so early, and at a time when the year seemed far from over, it didn't really hit me how close we were getting to the end.  Now, we're getting into the last of the lasts.

I took 9 Seniors out to coffee during their 7th period study hall today.  I have 7th period free, and since it comes on the heel of 5 straight class periods, I typically use it to sit down and catch my breath.  I've been so blessed this year to catch my breath on a couch in the Senior Lounge, where several students spend their study hall.  This has been a tremendous blessing--it allows me to remain an active part of their lives, though I no longer have them in class, as they can ask me questions, I can provide advice for writing, college stuff and comps, and above all else, as we simply sit and talk.  It's not always an on-task study hall, but I feel it's been an important time for both myself and the Seniors who are there.

Today, as I sat with them at the picnic benches in the school plaza, everyone enjoying their coffee, it struck me that we've only got one more 7th period study hall left this year: half the Senior class is gone to a leadership retreat tomorrow, and Monday is the last regularly-scheduled day of school.  After that, I'll watch the Seniors do their Comps Presentations on Tuesday.  They aren't required to come to school on Wednesday or Thursday, and then Friday is graduation, and though I'm so blessed to be able to speak to them on that night, there will be no time to simply sit and enjoy a conversation.  In other words, Monday is basically it.

When this realization hit me, I got kind of a dull feeling in the pit of my stomach and actually started to tear up a little.  It's weird--when we think of people we love, we think of our families, our friends, our significant others... but beyond those big three, we may be hard pressed to think of people in our lives who we genuinely love.  I felt this exact same way at the end of the year last year, once when my Humanities class asked me to stop taking down the posters from the walls while they were around because it was breaking their hearts, and again on the last day of class... the same dull feeling in my stomach, a feeling of having a lump in my throat and having to blink away tears.  I realized: I love this group.  Not out of duty... not because I'm supposed to... but because I've come to know and invest in them so deeply that I would do anything to protect them, to ensure the best for them as they leave.  What happens to these students matters tremendously to me; I'm torn between wanting them to stay so we can keep reliving the last few years, and wanting them to leave because I know that's what they want, and also so I can see just what they do with their lives.  It's weird to experience a brand new emotion like this at this stage in my life... and I suspect the goodbyes of next Friday will be very tough. This will be my 4th CAJ graduation, and while I've certainly sent off individuals and small groups who I really cared for, this is the first graduating class that I taught full-time and the first graduating class who I can honestly say, I love as a class.

I'm sure it has... but I sincerely hope that my investment in and love for this class has made a difference in their lives.

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