The band started playing “Pomp and Circumstance” as the graduating class of 2010 processed into the gym. Coming to see the graduation of some of the students I had worked with on college applications was the culmination of a busy week in which I had blogged, posted, emailed, and spoken to parents about the transition to college, especially for Third Culture Kids. I had listened to, advised, and consoled parents about how to get through graduation without tears and embrace the changes their children were about to experience. So then, as the students entered the gym, why did I get a lump in my throat and feel tears stinging my own eyes? I did not expect to get emotional – after all, I wasn’t the parent this time and I was the one who had been doing the consoling!
As I sat there through the graduation ceremony, I thought about that long and hard. What was wrong with me? Why was I getting emotional about this? And the answer came to me – because as the one who helped to guide and advise these students, as well as my other students in other parts of the world, these kids and their families had become very dear to me as we experienced the journey together.
The role of the educational consultant, or independent counselor, is not just that of someone who helps kids decide on schools and gets the applications done. No, it’s much, much more than that. It’s about relationships.
With each one of my students, we had spent hours and hours talking about their personalities, interests, hopes, and dreams. Together with their parents, we took our time fine tuning “the list” until we had a list of schools that would be appropriate for them and their uniqueness. We had brainstormed ideas about essays, and in doing so, had had wonderful and candid conversations about who they were, who their friends were, what stirred their souls, and how they were going to tell their story. I knew when each one of them had hit the “send” button on their applications, and heard from them one by one as the acceptances and denials came. And I helped them think through their values and how they would make their final decisions. For each of these kids, I have loads of emails and online chats saved, most of which start with “Hey Becky!”
But even that was not all that we experienced together. Each student and family has a special story to tell….and throughout the year, the story keeps unfolding. We talked about their schedules, how to approach the SATs, how to deal a difficult class, stress, a less-than-hoped-for grade or grades, wait lists, denials, and setbacks. My students faced crises throughout the year as well – serious illness, deaths in the family, the loss of fellow students, and uncertainty regarding their own family circumstances. Parents confided their own hopes, dreams, fears, and worries with me, too, and I answered countless questions that they had. We were in this together.
So it’s no wonder that seeing students graduate was also an emotional moment for me. It wasn’t just seeing the students I had worked with make it to the finish line with their college acceptances in hand. I was also thinking of the students whose graduations I would not get to see in person, and knowing the stories of the families who stood behind their kids. Most of all, I was struck with how much love and support these kids had been fortunate to receive. And how lucky I was personally that I got to play a role in shaping their futures. These new graduates are my kids, too, and therefore, my own tears are those of pride and joy.