To Parents of High School Seniors, What I See as a Teacher Every Year

To the parent of a high school senior, 

Let me start by saying that I am not the parent of a high school senior, nor have I been the parent of a high school senior. I am the parent of a six-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. My son will start kindergarten this year; he will start his educational career as your child closes a chapter in his or her. But, I have been a teacher of high school seniors for the bulk of my fifteen-year teaching career. So, I hope it is okay that I write this to you.

The author hugging one of her students (via Kara Lawler)

What I notice about my seniors every year

Every year, I help seniors navigate the college essay and tell them to have their parents read their essays. You know them best, really, even if they think you don’t. You know their essence and what will set them apart from the other applicants.

I watch them freak out every year as the November early decision college application deadline approaches. I hear you have taken them for ice cream to help them relax and bought them a comfy hooded sweatshirt with their reach school embroidered across the front.

Every year, I hear about their various choices — work, college, military, travel — and they tell me the choices you made. I can hear the pride in their voices and see the love in their eyes as they talk about you, even if they haven’t shown those things to you.

Every year, I watch seniors crash and burn into a puddle of tears under the pressure of what comes next, but I hear how you have held them as they have cried. If they’re honest with me, they admit they enjoyed being your baby again.

Every year, I deal with senioritis, as it usually strikes right around March 1, and I hear from you. You tell me to have them toe the line, and you support me as I push to get them to graduation. Sometimes, they dislike me for it, as I know they’ve maybe disliked you on this journey. But, in the end, even if it takes them years to admit it, I often hear from the ones who gave me a hard time, and mostly, they say thanks. Just like your child will one day thank you, even if they don’t now.

Every year, I speak to parents who have tears in their eyes as they ponder the impending day when they send their child off into the world, and my eyes reflect their tears because you know what? I’m thinking of that little boy at home with gray eyes, the one I’m about to send off to kindergarten.

And, every year, I see my small children in the eyes of your older ones and myself in your eyes. I realize that before too long, it will be me in your shoes, sending my firstborn or baby out into the real world — whatever that might be.

Every year, I hide on graduation day, too sad to say goodbye to my kids because in saying goodbye to them, I’m saying goodbye to so many things: another year that has passed, another year that my own children have grown, another year of watching these graduates leave the safety of your home and our school to jump, bravely, into whatever is waiting.

So this is my advice to parents

So, this year, I want to say this to you: 

Thank you for raising these children and entrusting them to me during their last year of high school.

Thank you for sending a piece of your heart out into the world and leaving it in my hands and the hands of the teachers before me.

Thank you for the privilege of learning how to be a parent by watching how you’ve parented your children. You have no idea how I’ve watched and listened, watched and listened.

Thank you, from your high school senior, for all you’ve done for them because I know that maybe they won’t say it to you, as their pride sometimes gets in the way.

Your student’s teacher has your back

As you embark on this last year of your child’s education, please know I have your back. I can deal with the panic, the tears, and the senioritis. I keep a big supply of tissues and chocolate on my desk, and over the years, I’ve learned that both can deal with most of the problems that might arise and offer some solace if they aren’t a solution. I know you’re a phone call and an email away, and I will be sure to call you if I need to.

Please know that I care about your children, and even when they drive me crazy, I won’t forget my mission: to be sure that they are ready to face the world outside of your arms. I’ll do my best, okay? 

It’s daunting — to be this parent of a high school senior — but you are not alone. Enjoy this year, dear parent. I know that when you look at them, you see small children in their eyes —much like my own small children. And I know that sometimes, when you look into my eyes, you see yourself when your kids were small.

We are in this together — this parenting and teaching; this is the dance that teaching and parenting should be. And as you go before me in this parenting journey, know that I feel lucky to have been your child’s teacher.


A 12th-grade English teacher 

More to Read:

High School Senior at Home: Why You Need to Dote on Them – Advice from Laura Hanby Hudgens, teacher, and mom of four, on why your high school senior deserves a little spoiling this year.

A Letter to All High School Seniors: What I Hope for You – Kara Lawler writes to high seniors about what she wants them to know about this upcoming year

About Kara Lawler

Kara Lawler is the author of Everywhere Holy: Seeing Beauty, Remembering Your Identity, and Finding God Right Where You Are. Kara has been a teacher for 18 years and writes often about mothering, teaching, faith, family, and small-scale farming and some of her essays have been read millions of times. Follow her on Facebook. She lives in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Read more posts by Kara

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