Guest blog by Laura Davies
Yesterday you graduated. I sat in a hall and watched you walk to the stage. You made your way there with some trepidation. Certainly a great deal of excitement. But most importantly, a whole lot of confidence.
My god I’m proud of you. What you’ve been through to get to this stage. I’m not just talking about getting through the last two years of your education during a global pandemic (although that admittedly is impressive). I’m talking about the individual battles each of you has fought. The self-doubt you’ve wrestled with. The personal difficulties each of you have faced. None of you have reached this stage of your lives unscathed.
I’m sorry for that. Like an overprotective parent, I wish I could wrap you up, and keep you safe. But I know that I can’t.
Earlier this week, a former student of mine suddenly and tragically passed away. Like you, he had his whole life ahead of him. I vividly remember his cheeky smile, his energy, the way he lit up a room. How much his parents and friends loved him. His death has devastated me. And so, watching you reach this rite of passage so soon afterwards has been somewhat bittersweet. I am filled with happiness for you, whilst simultaneously grieving a senseless and inexplicable loss. It has also reminded me once again, that we cannot take any of this for granted. No one knows what the future holds. We can only hope for the best, whilst appreciating the here and now.
The relationship between teacher and student cannot be easily defined. We talk of care. Of respect. Of building trust and rapport. But rarely about love.
But how can these things – relationships, trust, care – exist without love?
My job has been to teach you, yes. But it has been so much more than that. I have heard you talk about your hopes and dreams, and imagined them with you. I have felt deeply your sadness and disappointment at every setback. I have lain awake wondering how best to help you. I have been angry on your behalf. Argued for you. Protected you when I could.
Is that not love?
For a reason unbeknown to me, we like to restrict this idea of ‘love’. We understand romantic love. Familial love. The love between a parent and child. We are comfortable with that. But over the last few years, I have spent more time with you than my own family. I have seen you almost everyday, at your best and worst, and everything in between. I have celebrated every success you have enjoyed, no matter how big or small.
Is that not love?
Let me be clear then. Your teachers love you. We see you. We know you are not perfect, and never expected you to be (even though we might pretend sometimes). More than once you’ve messed up, let us down, broken our trust, or fallen short. But usually you’ve made up for it. Apologised. Owned your mistakes. Forgiven us for ours. Grown and matured.
And what a privilege to witness that growth. I have been more invested in your journey than you will ever know, cheering you on at the sidelines – sometimes loudly, so that you’ll know, other times quietly, willing you on under my breath and in my thoughts.
And now it’s time to let you go.
I am excited for you. I am scared for you. I want you to have only good things, experiences and success. I want you to meet people who will truly appreciate you and what you have to offer. I don’t want you to experience pain, betrayal or grief. Although I know that you will. To live is to experience pain. But there will also be moments of great joy, wonder and happiness.
I hope you know more joy than pain.
I hope that whatever life throws at you, you can cope with it. I believe that you will.
We might stay in touch. I hope we do, even if it’s just hearing in passing what you’re up to. Or this might be it. You may go off into the world, and never look back. That’s ok too.
Whatever you do, know that it won’t change how I feel about you. It won’t stop me thinking of you often, and wondering how you are. It won’t stop me feeling proud of your achievements and successes, and willing you to overcome the failures, heartbreaks and setbacks you will inevitably experience.
Whatever happens, remember that there is someone who has absolute faith in your ability to push forward. Who will always think of you with love, and hope, no matter what you do or where life takes you.