So many of my weekly celebrations are about my students, and as the year winds down I have this little black cloud lingering above me. I’m anticipating a loss: the loss of a little community of students. Next week they culminate, and go on to middle school.
Perhaps this is why the celebratory luncheons, awards banquets, and year-end festivities make me a little cranky. Everyone seems to be throwing a party and i’m kind of irritated, almost grinchy.
It is so interesting how we deal with change. I asked my students to play the it’s awesome, it stinks game with the idea of leaving elementary school. When students play this game, they position themselves in the room on the side the believe in and they state their claim with their reason attached. I did this with two classes. In one class, the majority were on the side that believes leaving elementary school is awesome. The other class had the majority in the middle, they saw both sides of the issue, it is awesome, but it also stinks.
During their five-minute debate reasons that supported the “it is awesome to leave elementary school” side included middle school vending machines, electives, sports, and the prospect of new friends. On the “it stinks to leave elementary school” side were the reasons of loosing friends, loosing teacher relationships, and leaving memories behind. After voicing their opinions and reasons, students sat down and wrote argument essays. This was an issue they were passionate about. No one had a problem getting started.
Their thoughts were fascinating. Each piece revealed a little bit about how they saw themselves in the world.
For some it was a fresh start. They saw this as an opportunity to change up what has gone before. It makes me think of that first day of school, new notebook feeling. Some seemed ready for the adventure. Just the idea of new and different was an exciting thing. Many were ready to leave the safety of their elementary school for new challenges, new ideas and new people.
But for some, it was as one student wrote “a bittersweet time.” To leave all they had loved for so many years just hurt. For these students, a very important part of their being was wrapped up in their elementary school. The thought of leaving it was just sad. These students don’t want to go. Interestingly, behavior for some has been a little off. They just aren’t themselves. I get that. I’m feeling, a little off too.
I’ve watched over a decade of fifth graders leave our school. Of course I celebrate their growth. They are ready to fly, to take the next step. But I mourn just a bit. I mourn the loss of their childhood, because after elementary school it seems to speeds up. They hurtle toward adult-like influences, leaving the game-playing behind. This is partly why all of the celebrations and award giving make me a little out of sorts.
The other part that is throwing me off is simple. It is hard to let go. After 180 days, all of those little souls become a part of you. I’ve celebrated their wins, their ahas, their little steps toward a goal. And I’ve tried to help them see how they can accomplish things they haven’t gotten to yet. Perhaps that last part is what makes letting go difficult.
Next week, I will celebrate their culmination day. It is a big accomplishment. A culmination of many little wins, and daily celebrations. Today I celebrate all of their little steps along the last six years of their school life. I celebrate their parents, their many teachers and them.