Traditions. Those markers in time that hold special significance and memories that we cherish. There are many meaningful traditions at South Medford High School. However, the Senior Tunnel is my very favorite. It marks the passage of time; the end of an era and a relaunching of another. It is a time of reflection, gratitude, hugs, and tears.....lots and lots of tears.
To truly understand the impact of the Senior Tunnel, you have to step back four years to the Freshman Tunnel. When students begin their first year of high school they make a special entrance onto our campus by walking through a tunnel of staff members that reach from one end of our gym to the other. As students make the reluctant walk through, there is loud cheering, high fiving, and clapping to celebrate their arrival. Student leaders are in the surrounding area holding welcome signs eager to be introduced to their student teams. The gym is filled with electricity and excitement as Freshman enter this new big world we call high school with trepidation of all the unknown adventures ahead.
Now fast forward four years and this tradition comes full circle. On our Senior's last day of high school, we hold a special assembly called the Senior Tunnel. It begins with the Freshman Tunnel video. As our seniors watch the video of themselves and their peers entering high school as nervous Freshman, all of the memories created over their high school experience come flooding back. The gym is filled with laughter and tears as they see how much they've grown, changed, and matured over their time at South Medford.
What happens next is the part the most poignant of all. As the video ends, staff members move onto the gym floor and form a tunnel just like the one formed four years prior. However, this time the students aren't walking into the gym, they are walking out. Seniors come flooding out of their section in the gym and start filing through the tunnel. However, there is a stark contrast to how students approach the tunnel this time around. Instead of the fearful sprint through the tunnel they made as Freshman, there is hesitation as they approach. This walk is a symbol of the ending of an era. The tears don't take long to flow as Seniors begin slowly making their way through the tunnel making eye contact with those staff members who have made a significant impact on their high school experience. Instead of the high fives and cheers of their entrance into high school, there are hugs and lots of tears. It is a moment to look back on the journey that has brought them to this point; a chance to acknowledge all of the hard work and to show appreciation and gratitude to the adults that have shaped and helped them to this point. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of relationships and how each connection we make holds lasting value in the lives of our kids.
Every year I bring a box of tissue. Every year I cry crocodile tears. These kids have made an imprint on my heart. I hope that I have made a difference in their lives, but I know they have made a difference in mine. They have taught me that I never stop learning, growing, and refining to be the best teacher I can be.
This year the tunnel brought a whole new level of poignancy and emotion as this class held special meaning to me. It is my daughter's class. These are the kids that I watched her grow up with. The tears flow in full force as I not only reminisce about the high school memories, but I also remember kinder soccer, field trips, class celebrations, and slumber parties.
Then the moment comes that I have anticipated and dreaded. My daughter makes her way through the tunnel towards me. She embraces me and the tears become a sob. This tradition now holds a whole new level of significance. This tunnel may end an era, but also the promise of all that is to follow.
Culinary teacher & Discovery School Lead in Southern Oregon, passionate about finding innovative ways to make learning magical for students. Love to gamify!