By Iain Beaumont, LCS Associate Faculty Member
“I can’t pick a single memory. I love Lakefield. Everyone is so kind, and really cares about you here.”
These are the words from just one of the 20 students who have spent the year at Lakefield, and will not be returning next school year. Tonight, this group of students and a handful of their teachers and residential staff (handpicked by the students themselves) gathered at the Head of School’s house for a goodbye celebration dinner.
The room in which we all gathered buzzed with excitement, positive energy and a modicum of sadness, as teachers and students alike reflected on the past year and what was in store for the future. We dined and laughed, told memorable stories, and thanked each other for a great year in everyone’s company. “These students,” one teacher reflected, “are some of my favourites, my best. I will miss their energy and laughter in my classroom.” This such energy and laughter were present throughout the entire night, even if the reason for which we were all gathered was not the happiest.
These students are leaving The Grove. The place that they have called home for the entire school year, the place where they met some of their now closest friends and experienced their most formative experiences. A few of the students that my teaching partner and I were talking to, live a few streets away from each other—two of them are even neighbours—and before coming to Lakefield, they had no idea that they lived so close together. “We live ten minutes away from each other, we didn’t know before we came to Lakefield, but I am glad that we do now, ” one of these students reflected.
The night was not all fun and games, laughter, and happy reflection, though. Anne-Marie Kee, Head of School and Foundation, gathered all of us in her living room, asked the students to reflect on their year at The Grove and to share their favourite memory with the group. After a moment of thought, some of the students shared a single classroom moment, a shared friendship experience, or that Gladiator Day was their favourite memory of Lakefield (“My friends go to boarding schools in [other countries], and they never have days like Gladiator Day. It is a special thing for Lakefield, and something that I loved.”). Students and teachers around the circle smiled, laughed and nodded along in agreement as memories like these were shared.
The memories that provoked the most evocative responses, however, were those that can only be classified as so Lakefield. One student shared: “I met some of my friends for the very first time on my first day at Lakefield, and now they are my best friends.” This was followed up with: “I can’t pick a single memory. I love Lakefield. Everyone is so kind, and really cares about you here.” Which rightly elicited some sympathetic tears around the circle.
What had been a time of celebration and laughter had momentarily become a sombre experience shared amongst all of us in that room. One teacher reflected that they were losing some of the most amazing students in their classrooms, another that this touching event would be that spent with their final group of students, as they are retiring at the end of the school year. “My own career,” I reflected to the group, “was started with all of you, and I cannot thank you enough for giving me the most amazing first year teaching I could have wished for.”
These students are not those who will be traditionally graduating from The Grove, Dr. Heather Avery shared with the group. As such, these students would not give a Chapel Speech, and would not receive a long line of hugs at the culmination of their time at Lakefield. So what else was there do than to give these students the Lakefield goodbye that they all deserve?
There was no other Lakefield way to send these students off than to give them the goodbye that they all deserved: that much was clear from the reflections about these students shared by teachers and residential staff around the room. So, in proper Lakefield fashion, all of the staff lined up by the door and the “one-year” students who are leaving us after closing processed out of the room to be hugged by caring, kind, empathic staff members gathered there for them. After leaving the hug line, the students were gifted with Lakefield flags, a small memento of the very short time spent here with us.
“You can’t make old friends,” Ms. Kee shared with the students, “but I hope that the friends that you have made here at Lakefield will be those that you keep in touch with over the years… that your Lakefield friends will become your old friends.”
At the core of that heartfelt message that left many of the students in tears, was, I think, what made Lakefield such a special place to them. That little message and the evening that we spent in each other’s company is, after all, so Lakefield.