To the parent of a high school senior,
Let me start out by saying that I am not a parent of a high school senior, nor have I been the parent of a high school senior. I am the parent of a 6-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. My son is actually going to start kindergarten this year; he will start his educational career as your child closes a chapter in his or hers. But, I have been a teacher of high school seniors for the bulk of my 15-year teaching career. So, I hope it is okay that I write this to you.
Every year, I help seniors navigate the college essay, and I tell them to have you read their essays. You know them best, really, even if they think you don’t. You know their essence and what will set them apart from all of the other applicants.
Every year, I watch them freak out as the November college application deadline approaches, and I hear that you have taken them for ice cream to help them relax and bought them a comfy hooded sweatshirt with their reach school’s name embroidered across the front.
Every year, I hear about their various choices—work, college, military, travel—and they tell me what choices you’ve made. I can hear the pride in their voices and see the love in their eyes as they talk about you, even if they haven’t shown those things to you.
Every year, I watch seniors crash and burn into a puddle of tears under the pressure of what comes next, but I hear how you have held them as they have cried. If they’re honest with me, they admit how they enjoyed being your baby again, if only for a few moments.
Every year, I deal with senioritis when it usually strikes right around March 1, and I hear from you. You tell me to have them toe the line, and you support me as I push to get them to graduation. Sometimes, they really dislike me for it, as I know they’ve maybe disliked you on this journey. But, in the end, even if it takes them years to admit it, I often hear from the ones who gave me a hard time and most of them say thanks. Just like your child will one day thank you, even if they don’t now.
Every year, I speak to parents who have tears in their eyes as they ponder the imminent day when they send their child off into the world, and my eyes reflect their tears, because you know what, I’m thinking of that little boy at home—the one with gray eyes, the one I’m about to send off into kindergarten.
And, every year, I see my small children in the eyes of your older ones and myself in your eyes. I realize that before too long, it will be me in your shoes, sending my first born or my baby out into the world—the real world—whatever that might be.
Every year, I hide on graduation day, too sad to say goodbye to your kids because in saying goodbye to them, I’m saying goodbye to so many things: another year that has passed, another year that my own children have grown, another year of watching these graduates leave the safety of your home and our school to jump bravely into whatever is waiting next.
So, this year, I want to say this to you:
Thank you for raising these children and entrusting them to me during their last year of high school.
Thank you for sending a piece of your heart out into the world and leaving it in my hands and in the hands of the teachers before me.
Thank you for the privilege to learn how to be a parent by watching how you’ve parented your children. You really have no idea how I’ve watched and listened.
Thank you, from your high school seniors, for all you’ve done for them. I know that maybe they all won’t say it to you, as their pride sometimes gets in the way.
As you embark on this last year of your child’s education, please know that I have your back. I can deal with the panic, the tears and the senioritis. I keep a big supply of tissues and chocolate in my desk, and over the years, I’ve learned that both can solve most of the problems that might arise. If they aren’t a solution, they at least offer some solace. I know you’re a phone call and an email away, and I will be sure to call on you if I need to. Please know that I care about your children, and even on days when they drive me crazy, I won’t forget my mission: to be sure that they are ready to face the world outside of your arms. I’ll do my best, okay?
It’s a daunting task to be this parent of a high school senior, but you are not alone. Enjoy this year, dear parent. I know that when you look at them, you see small children in their eyes, much like my very own small children. I know that sometimes, when you look in my eyes, you see yourself when your kids were small. We really are in this together, this parenting and teaching. This is the dance that teaching and parenting should be. As you go before me in this journey of parenting, know that I feel lucky to have been your child’s teacher.
A 12th grade English teacher