There were days (weeks!) that I didn’t know if this day would ever come, but here it is. The last day of the school year.
We had a graduation ceremony this morning at 9:30. It was more of a “closing ceremony” since only two of our children were actually “graduating” in the sense of going to a new school next year. And in fact, one of those two might actually be returning to Frazee Montessori next year after all. So, that kept a lot of the emotions at bay this morning – knowing that I will be seeing almost all of the children again next year.
But the ceremony was strange, to me. I think the parents enjoyed it, others who came said it was nice (after all, who really has high expectations for a graduation ceremony featuring 3 and 4 year olds?). But I was left with a bizarre feeling afterward and it’s taken me all day to understand it.
The ceremony this morning was quiet – very quiet. We had a small audience – the parents of each child, so a total of about 20 guests. Last year we had about 24 other volunteers volunteering in our program each week so the turn out for graduation just seemed huge. But today it was about 20 people, and they were very quiet. Respectful, sweet, but quiet.
Each child came up to the front of the stage to have a few kind and encouraging words said about them, and then we ended by saying goodbye to our BELOVED assistant, who will be moving to Germany next year. Then we ate some cupcakes and took some pictures, and that was all.
Some kids left without saying goodbye. Some said goodbye and got a picture with us, and about 6 stayed with us for two more hours and we went to the park. So it was a very sweet and low-key day, but I realized it just did not seem to do justice to the year that we have experienced.
I don’t know what I was expecting! But this year has been one of the hardest of my life – and there were many days last semester that I was completely lost and broken and didn’t know how to keep going. Or WHERE to keep going – it felt like we were headed down a dark abyss into total failure.
Those beginning months were so difficult – screaming children, eaten crayons, angry parents, total chaos. But, through the grace of God, I am convinced, we pressed on and it has become something so beautiful. The children have a sense now of their dignity as “Montessori students”, and we have formed such a community, such a family. It was kind of heartbreaking to not have some final, deep moment of closure with the entire class and our assistant, Mrs. Tanja – but in my last 4 years of working with preschool students, I should have known that those “last days” are not usually very sentimental. The children have not even begun to understand the concept of time yet – so saying goodbye for the summer or for a lifetime is basically like saying goodbye until tomorrow.
But for us – for the teachers – we feel it so deeply. “Goodbye, little child whom I’ve come to love as my own… perhaps I will never see you again. Perhaps you will not remember me. You will likely never know the blood, sweat, and tears – my total heart – that was poured out for you. But, I hope you are happy. I hope your life is good. I hope you grow in love, and have a family or a community that you too, one day, pour your heart out for. And who pours their heart out for you in return. I hope good things come to you, and that you are an instrument of peace and love and justice in the world. Even if you don’t remember my name or my face, I hope you do remember the feeling – the feeling that you were loved. I love you.”
“The things the child sees are not just remembered – they form a part of his soul.” – Maria Montessori