Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Separation anxiety

It's wrapping-up time.  The seniors are done with their academic requirements.  From this week up the early part of next week, they are completing some remaining administrative paperwork and participating in school-related culminating exhibits and conferences.  The affective landscape is a mix of excitement, relief, and anxiety, the rush of freedom combined with fear of the undefined future.

I have anxieties of my own. I'm in this in-between space of releasing one batch and pre-processing the next, of letting go of one set of attachments and forming new ones.

The anxiety had me reflecting on batches past.  You assume that you are going to meet the same people again "somewhere down the road" but I realized just last night that this is not in fact the case.  I've been teaching for about 20 years now.  If I assume that I've handled 50 students a year (low estimate), that's 1000 students I've met along the way.  Of the thousand, there are *maybe* 20 (high estimate) whom I've ever seen again, at all.  A few have remained close, but these tend to be the people who decided to teach in some capacity, either here or in other schools.  Everyone else, though?  Our paths never cross again.  We don't see each other at work, in malls, in restaurants.  Our social circles don't intersect.

The take-home lesson for me is that my time with my students is fleeting.  I am a brief episode in their lives, and as they are in mine.  We should make that episode count because, even though we don't intend it to be so, in a real, practical sense, graduation day is goodbye.