I see this pattern every year as my senior students approach graduation – they begin to reminisce about their past. It starts with memories of the 9th and 10th grade but then the conversation quickly shifts and they begin to talk about the 6th grade. The 2nd grade. Kindergarten and even earlier. The students who have been here from preschool onward call themselves "lifers."
In fact, for the lifers it may be that the faces in their classrooms have been the faces they've been seeing since they were 4 years old. This builds a remarkable community of young men and women and by the time I see them, at the age of 17, they've come to appreciate the patterns and the pleasures of that kind of continuity.
But it also means that as they prepare to graduate and leave their parents' homes for college, they are also preparing to say goodbye to another place where they have grown up, a school and classmates that some of them have known for nearly all of their lives. They are all eager to move on and yet there is a wistfulness as they begin to look around this familiar place with new eyes. They are preparing for their future by remembering their past.
On Friday, they brought in a video of the 1st grade play from 1996. More than a dozen members of the class of 2007 were featured players in that video. As we watched it, they laughed and laughed, recalling memories from that show. And I could see in their sweet first grade faces the young men and women they are today. The poised young woman with the terrific star power and wonderful singing voice? She was there, a little girl with a sunflower around her face, poised even then. The tall, kind young man so eager to please at the age of 18? He was there as well, with shining blond hair and a shy smile, performing his part perfectly. Their little 1st grade faces had a hint of the young adults they have become. One little girl walked across the stage and I knew right then that it was the tall young woman I see in 3rd period each day.
I know that this review of their personal history is a natural part of preparing to say goodbye to their childhood. College life beckons, with the promise of new faces and new classrooms. They don't all know it quite yet, but they are ready. First, however, they need to say goodbye to this school, a place that looms so large in the memories of their lives.