I recently chaperoned the senior Grad Night trip to Disneyland. I did this for two reasons: the students asked me and it’s Disneyland. I really don’t need an excuse to go to Disneyland. And it was a fun trip. I talked to some of my former students, learned of their aspirations after high school, and spent the day wandering the magic kingdom exploring some points that I don’t usually explore. And, of course, I learned some things.
I had some pretty awesome students! Walking around the park you see all kinds of young adults, just graduated and ready to face the “real world” with their hopes on their sleeves. But some of those kids are just plan assholes! I saw several groups of 18 year-olds being talked to by security for doing something stupid. And none of those groups where mine. Mine had fun and enjoyed themselves and completely wore themselves out, but they didn’t ruin the fun for others. It’s encouraging to see that young people can still enjoy the magic and not destroy that magic for little kids.
Letting go is hard! I didn’t run this trip, I merely chaperoned. The two young women who actually organized it did a wonderful job. But it was hard to watch them do things that I know they should do in a different why. I’ve done more than my fair share of field trips with students and I have a good idea of how they need to run. Biting my tongue when they did something differently from what I would have done is difficult. Partly because, not two days ago, a lot of the this group were my students. As a teacher, you get so used to being in charge, sometimes it’s difficult to let the nestlings use their wings.
“Teacher mode” doesn’t have a convenient off switch. This ties into the point above. I’ve been disciplining these kids for two years now. I’ve told them what to do and when to do it and “no, you can’t go to the bathroom right now.” Suddenly, I have absolutely no power or say over these young adults. They are no longer at the mercy of detentions and referrals. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see them that way still. I’m still their teacher and I still want to tell them how the world works and to be careful and to go after their dreams and work hard. It doesn’t just turn off.
Graduation is bitter sweet. Grad Night was awesome! They let a bunch of seniors run around the park, have music and DJs and dance areas and food. They give the chaperones their own area in Ariel’s Grotto (which is a fantastic place that has a Princess breakfast meet and greet) with snacks and coffee. At the end of the night, they have a special World of Color just for the grads. Then, we hop back on buses and go home. And they leave. Some say goodbye, some even gave me hugs, some said they’ll keep in tough. But the bottom line is that I will never see most of these kids again. My time with them is gone. They are moving on to college and careers, new friends and new adventures. Most of them probably won’t even remember me in a few years. But that’s okay. It’s just also a little sad.
I’m going to miss the class of 2014 roaming the halls at school come the fall. But there will be new students and new moments with the classes of 2015 and 2016. Juniors I had last year are returning as seniors, ready to be learn and finish high school. New juniors will join me in chemistry where I do my best to continue making science fun and interesting.
Good luck in the “real world” class of 2014! I enjoyed getting to know every single one of you.