5 Reminders to Help Seniors (and their teachers) get through Graduation Week!

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Having taught 12th grade for ten years now, I have gone through a lot of high school graduations and graduation weeks. Although final exams fall the week before graduation, after exams have ended, students are left in an odd place. They are left with all sorts of emotions and feelings that sometimes they don’t know how to process. Here are 5 things that I try to remind my seniors of during the last class we have together:

1.    This week you will go through tons of emotions from excitement to confusion to sadness. This is totally normal! Don’t think you are crazy! Transitions in life are not always easy. Even if you know what direction you are going next year, you still are left in a state of “limbo” at the moment. You are waiting for the rest of your life to begin. This can leave many students feeling highly emotional. Also, beware that emotion is not always tears. It can come in the form of anger as well. Be careful of the things you say & the discussions you get into this week. You don’t want to lose friends or upset your family because of your emotional instability.

2.     Remember that mom & dad are going through something too! You are their baby, whether you are the oldest or youngest. They have waited for this moment longer than you have and are feeling proud of your accomplishments yet at the same time, hoping and praying about whether or not they have prepared you well to go out into the “big, bad, world.” Be sweet to them during this time. Give them an extra hug, spend some special time with them, and reassure them that you have been prepared well for this journey and that your relationship with them will continue even if you move out. This is not the time to fight with mom & dad about boundaries. Just realize emotions are high right now & it is easy to get into arguments when everyone is feeling on edge.

3.     Set goals, seriously! This sounds so cheesy but you really do need goals in life. And be prepared to work hard for those goals. Life is not fair and it is not easy but that doesn’t mean that the work you put into your goals isn’t worthwhile. There is nothing quite like deciding on a goal, pushing hard to achieve it, and then looking back at all you have accomplished.

4.     Remember that intelligence is not everything! Give me a hardworking person over a brilliant one any day of the week. I share with students about some of the people I have known over my life that have been brilliant people, scoring much higher on standardized tests and getting amazing scholarship opportunities that I did not get. Some of them have succeeded but sadly, I have seen more fail than succeed. I think it is because they rely so much on their natural intellectual ability instead of their effort. Work effort is absolutely essential to success in life! All my life when people told me that I was smart, I always replied with, “NO, I just work hard.” I always have. I didn’t make straight A’s or get a 35 on my ACT but I did work my butt off to get everything I have today and I am very proud of that. I encourage students to think this way and remember that no one can stop you but YOU!  

5.     I am always here. I want my students to know that no matter what happens, I am always here. Sadly some of them do not have those awesome family relationships and the support they need at home. I want them to know that I am always here for them whether it is for a recommendation letter, academic or profession advice, or just a listening ear when they are having a hard time. As I told one group, I will be back here “cheering, supporting, & praying for you every step of the way.”

This is an incredibly exciting week for my seniors as they prepare to graduate on Thursday night! I cannot wait to see them in their caps & gowns ready to go off and conquer the world. I am so proud of their accomplishments but at the same time, I have that parental feeling of, “are they really ready?” I hope so! I have done my best to prepare them and so have all their other teachers but now, they are in God’s hands. Good luck Class of 2016! I love you guys!  

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