A Bittersweet Feeling on Bittersweet Road

Growing up and making your way through elementary school could be considered some of the most fun years of your academic career, given many students have recess, and childhood overall is, well, fun. Then comes middle school. Middle school tends to be called “the worst years” of an academic career. Kids start moving on from their childhood and into their teen years, and with all the growth, the stress of middle school, and sometimes bullying, middle school tends to be considered the part of the journey students like least.

After the rough years of middle school, the move to high school begins. Touring high school for the first time seems like some towering foe standing in your way. You may feel uncomfortable, and like you are not ready to move on. But once you make that transition into high school, you realize it’s not as bad as it may have seemed.

High school, in quite a few ways, is where some of the best memories could be made. After all, high school is the stage of your life where you really start to mature. It’s where students slowly begin their transition into adulthood. For some students, they’ve spent their last four years at that school, making new friends and building relationships with teachers. For other students, they could’ve spent the last thirteen years in that same school system, starting with kindergarten, and ending with their senior year in high school.

For some students, they’ve had looped teachers, or teachers for two or more years, which can make moving on from high school even more challenging. The relationships developed with those teachers over the course of a few years is, to some, everlasting. That is how great of a bond students and teachers can develop with each other. Bonding with students is why some teachers have the career that they do.

If you look back over the past four years of your life during your high school tenure, you will likely have many great memories. That is how Shubh Pelia, a senior felt as he graduates and moves on to the next chapter of his life. Shubh was asked what the last four years have meant to him, and he replied, “It’s been pretty wild–I think the wildest four years of my life. Because ninth and tenth grade, I didn’t know what was going to happen coming out of middle school, and I didn’t know what to expect, but everything good happened.” Then came COVID-19. In reference to a different 2020-21 school year, Pelia said “nothing like this has ever happened before, especially not at a time like this. I think we adapted well to the situation, and I’m happy at the end. I wasn’t stressed too much.” Then Pelia was asked his favorite memory over the past four years, and he responded with “[for an Early College filed trip] We went to Western Avenue and there was a bakery, and right across the street was a Mexican Grocery store, and honestly, because of that field trip, I visit those two places almost every single week. It was the first time we went to the Humane Society, and that’s how I found out that I love animals and especially cats.” Pelia called it “the best day of school.”

“Nothing like this has ever happened before, especially not at a time like this. I think we adapted well to the situation, and I’m happy at the end.”

Shubh Pelia, class of 2021

Aside from Shubh, PNN got a teacher’s point of view of seniors leaving. Mrs. Julie Ohlson, an English teacher here at Penn, was interviewed and asked about what it was like teaching seniors for a whole year–and then watching them depart. “I’ll have to say, it is a little bit of an odd feeling in the sense that most of the time we are so busy and then, like today, going, ‘oh my gosh it’s your last day…for some of you who have been in the room, it’s your last day and now I won’t see you suddenly at all,'” Ohlson said. “That, I would say, is definitely bittersweet. On the one hand, everybody is happy for the year to be over, but you’re not happy necessarily to not see certain people go by, or you might think ‘oh, I’d be happy to see you, oh, I’m not gonna see you in the fall anymore.'”

A bittersweet feeling goes for both students and for teachers. For students, it’s all the friends and memories they have made through the hard work and dedication that they spent their high school tenure working on. For teachers, it’s the memories made and the time bonded together with the students. It is, what some call, the end of an era. Seniors will get ready to move onto college or the military, while the teachers await the students of the next Penn generation.