Ending the School Year Well

The signs are all around us. This past weekend marked the very last games for our varsity sports in the Upper School and this week, the Middle School Athletic Program comes to an end.  Last Friday, 8th grade students held their annual Service Fair, where they showcased all their tremendous efforts to support the greater community. Last week, the 4th grade Colonial Day and the 3rd grade Market Day were both successful. And finally, last night, was the final Middle School Orchestra concert.  These days are filled with these “markers” that designate the rapidly approaching end of the school year. (Don’t forget to attend the Major Minors concert this Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Olson Theater. It will be a great night of singing!)

It happens every year. Yet, these milestones, as always, seem to surprise us.  It is as if they have just snuck up on us. It is also at this time of the year, we begin to hear of faculty who will be leaving, we begin to hear plans of summer, and that our seniors have gone off to their Senior Projects. All of these events point to changes… and steps forward on our journey in life.  And sometimes we are excited by the prospects, and sometimes these events concern or confuse us.

We end things all the time. These steps affect us as parents and they affect our children as well.  In fact, we, along with their teachers, are the role models for our children in this process. Our students/children are watching us. They are learning from us and with us as we deal with everything, and clearly with how we deal with the endings. Several things to keep in mind:

  1. How we end things is just as important as to how we start them. We know that first impressions are critically important, but we should never lose sight of the fact that last impressions also carry a significant amount of weight. There is no time or place for a senior slump in life. We need to end athletic seasons, school years, careers… strong! We never give up or coast to the end. The lasting impression will always be the last impression.
  2. Ends are really just the start of new beginnings. Let’s not ever forget that as one door closes in life, another will open. As our seniors finish their educational careers here, they are getting ready to head off to exciting careers at colleges and universities around the world. As one sport season ends, students get ready for the next season. As we finish one grade, we are getting ourselves ready to step into that new grade next fall. The cycle is endless, which gives us security, comfort, and momentum.
  3. Endings always have to do with “change” and stress always comes with change. We have all learned along the way that change is never easy. It can knock us off of our emotional base. It can get us worried.  It can get us angry. It can get us confused. We need to realize that this is a natural part of closings. To some adolescents, dealing with the end of their high school careers and heading off to college can make them very difficult to deal with. To some degree, that’s their way of being able to emotionally make the move away from home and loved ones, without as much stress on themselves. This defense mechanism is called reaction formation, and it is very real. There will be some folks who will literally go through the five stages of grief as they come to the end of the year. Realizing that their favorite teacher is not returning or that their best friend is leaving, they may struggle with the reality of the change. The first phase is denial. Then, they will bargain with it as if there was a way that things could change. Then, they get angry. The next phase is mild depression. Why did this happen? Why is this ending? And then ultimately, it comes to some level of acceptance. We just need to be patient and know that the emotional aspects of it are real, genuine, and very much a part of our lives.

It has been a full, busy, action-packed year. Each year brings its own personality and its own flavor. As we go into the summer and as we bring this school year to a close, I hope we can all reflect back, with the best of hindsight, and learn from what we did well, take pride in what it has been accomplished, learn from our mistakes, and realize that above all else, we are in a school family that truly values the social-emotional aspects of our children’s development and our partnership between home and school, in ways that allow all of us to grow together.

Best wishes to everyone!  Have a very exciting Memorial Day weekend ahead!