But now I get it. There's something powerful in recognizing the transition to a new place and celebrating the accomplishments of a current phase. I love seeing my students dress up in their best outfits, carrying their balloons or roses, nervously waiting for their name to be called.
Today, though, it feels different. This time, I'll be moving on as well. It suddenly feels real. I won't be coming back to a middle school classroom. I won't be decorating the walls a week early. I won't be designing projects with kids. I won't be talking to a group of eighth graders on their last day of middle school as they suddenly face the terror of going to high school.
Three boys walk up to me. One of them holds out his hand for a fist bump but as I punch it, he leans in an gives me one of the awkward man hugs.
"Thanks for not giving up on me," he says.
"You're a great kid," I tell him.
"Thanks," he says.
His friend walks up to me and punches me in the arm. Oddly enough, it's less awkward than the awkward man hug.
"Next year will be the first time in three years that I didn't have you as a teacher."
"It was always fun having you in class," I tell him.
"Thank you," I say.
"Maybe I'll have you as a professor someday," he says with a smile.
"That would be awesome."
For the next ten minutes, we tell stories. We talk about funny things that happened back in sixth grade. They talk to me about their summer plans and ask me odd questions about high school (Do they let you practice unlocking a locker? Is it true that you get choices at lunchtime?)
Although I am ridiculously excited about my new job as a professor (I'll share the details in a future post), I'm going to miss moments like this. I feel honored by the privilege of doing this gig for over a decade. While I have had cringe-worthy moments I would love to take back, I am reminded on 8th grade promotion day that I had the chance to make a difference. I had the chance to be a part of each kid's educational journey. For that, I am forever grateful.