Behind the Scenes
One of the highlights of being a junior/senior high school principal is my time with seniors. They are pretty much fully formed adults able to have rational conversations...which is a real unicorn if you spend too much time with junior high kids. (As a parent of a 6th and 7th grader and former 8th grade teacher of 11 years, I say this with a lot of experience and love).
Seniors have a jam packed year at Kennedy, filled with a lot of traditions. From the first Mass walking in the Kindergarteners, Homecoming Court, Senior vs Staff Volleyball Game, Senior Retreat, Prom, Baccalaureate, Awards Assembly, and Commencement to name a few. I don't cherish having a front row seat to it all--rather, I love the behind-the-scenes time I get to spend before those big moments.
Today was the Homecoming Court Speeches- each candidate speaks for a few minutes to the 9-12th grade student body, trying to win over votes with their friendly roasts of each other, taking a stroll down memory lane, and selling out their teachers and administrators for the sake of some laughs. The picture above was taken before they walked out to the crowd, arm-in-arm. I told them to line up and whispered to them to smile as they were announced and walked out. They smiled and looked at me out the side of their eye as they walked to the stage. I hope to think they feel my love and support at that last minute before they turned to the crowd.
Rewind to earlier this week. I'm in the Think Lab with my class and several of them are on court. They show me their rough draft speeches and ask for my opinion and, get this..... take my suggestions. I know they aren't my "real" kids but oh does my heart swell. If you have or had a teenager, you know how much this means. It's not the speech they give in the end that I will remember--it's that I got to be a part of the process.
This past year, on a regular day, a senior just sat next to me and asked, "so should I go to Ohio State or Miami?" We had a great conversation and I'm not sure that any advice I gave helped either way, but to think about being part of these big decisions is so humbling. Besides college advice, it's inevitable I'll be consulted on a whole slew of topics from relationships lasting beyond high school to prom accessories; from asking for recommendation letters to asking to sit in my office to decompress after a big test.
Sometime in the future, the current seniors and I are going to have a moment when I have had *enough* and so have they. They will say they can't wait to get out of this place. I'll think in my head, me too. Neither of us mean it though. Because the last day of school, they will be dismissed early and a handful of them will stay. They will stick around the office, hang out in the Think Lab, or just roam around looking for a staff member to chat with. It happens every year. They think they are ready to fly but afraid of that first step out of the nest.
The week of graduation will be a trial. They will be done with classes but come back for practices and celebrations like Awards Ceremony, Baccalaureate and Commencement. I will count down for them yelling "YOU ONLY HAVE TO LISTEN TO ME FOUR MORE TIMES" while lining them up or giving instructions on what they have to wear. But that last time we line up for commencement procession and I am fixing their caps and straightening their "K" pins, I always feel full of love and also anxiety. This is the last behind the scenes I get with them. It's the last time I take care of them... then we take the last video of throwing their caps and gowns and they continue to celebrate with their families and friends and I walk away to my car, emotionally exhausted.
This job is beyond a job and I fully feel that in those moments. It's being a mom without being *their mom. I know their are strong caring adults all throughout Kennedy that will serve that role for my girls someday too, because I can't be that person for them as their actual mom. I feel the weight of the responsibility all the time, but especially in those behind the scenes moments that are only mine with my students. These moments help erase away the really awful parts of the job (believe me, I have a whole book of those ready to publish upon retirement) and make me happy.
Senior year is fleeting. I hope they enjoy every second, I hope their parents enjoy it all and I know that not only I will enjoy those moments, I'll get to do it again next year.
Class of 2023, we have many moments left for you to be extraordinary. My Eagles.
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