The seasons of school are just as real as the 4 seasons of our orbiting planet. Though the weather and the colors of nature play a role, they are secondary to ceremonies, exams, bells, and routines. This is now that season we call graduation, and with it comes a whole set of emotions and practices that are as predictable as temperatures and phases of the moon. At least they are at our school, a place where doing something twice qualifies it as a tradition and it must be repeated until the end of time as we know it. Changing one of these traditions is like breaking a law of physics: it can be done, but only with much planning and great peril.
For the month of May we go through a litany of “lasts.” We have the last orchestra concert, the last band concert, the last choir and hand-bell concert. We have the last Far East tournament and the last award’s assembly. We have 8th grade graduation and their Encapsulating Extravaganza. We have Senior Comprehensives, the capstone of high school requiring research, writing, a project and a presentation. These presentations are attended by all middle school and high school students and presided over by panels including all our teachers. The whole school celebrates what the seniors have learned and how they are now equipped (we hope) to go from here, equipped to make a difference.
This week held our last chapel, followed by graduation rehearsal. This year we initiated a new tradition, with the graduates marching through the whole school, walking the halls where they attended kindergarten, grade three, grade six, or grade nine. They paraded through places where they created art, shot baskets, practiced equations, wrote papers, sang, played, presented, read, and learned. We all clapped for them and admired their progress, some of us remembering when we were their age and others wondering when they will ever be that tall and strong and smart. We become that “great cloud of witnesses for them.
This weekend we celebrated graduation complete with processionals, speeches, hugs, and photos. We challenged the graduates to go forth in peace and justice to love and serve the Lord, and waved goodbye as they tearfully said their goodbyes. Now we go through the anticlimactic week of underclassmen exams, staff meetings, room cleanings, and more farewells. Even these are part of the rhythm of the school year. A novel rarely ends with the climax, but coasts to the necessary conclusion that slows the reader to a gentle stop. Then the well-earned reward at the end: summer vacation. It’s not just the kids singing, “Schools out for summer!” (Do they still know that song?), but the adults in the building who so desperately need respite from being responsible for fragile emotions, unpredictable hormones, weighty responsibilities, intense preparation, tedious grading, and the precious burden of caring so much for each student they have under their watch. In measuring time in schools, every day equals 5 days of “other occupation” days. Sort of like dog years.
The thing is, I love the seasons of school. They are more ingrained in me that the four seasons pictured on calendars with frozen ponds, budding trees, bubbling waterfalls and vivid leaves. This may be June, but it’s the end of a year. I’m about to hibernate for a few weeks, and will be waking up for a new beginning in the middle of August.