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Leaving The Nest

John Dodig is one of Staples' -- and Staples students' -- biggest fans.

After 42 years in education, Staples principal John Dodig has a deep and perceptive understanding of teenagers — their minds, their moods, the rhythms of their lives.

He knows too how those rhythms affect those around them.

Last week, Dodig sent a note to the parents of Staples seniors.  His message was tailored for them, and for the next few months of the school year — but it deserves to be read by everyone.

He said:

One of the great joys of being a principal is watching young people enter the school as freshmen and seeing how they grow and mature into young adults over four years.  This senior class is one that will be remembered by adults in this building for many years to come.

From the moment they walked into Staples they have lived up to our expectations and, in many regards, exceeded what even we thought they could do.  We have reached the halfway point of the year, which means I am beginning to feel pangs of loss.  I don’t want to see them leave, but leave they must.

If you have never had a high school senior, I warn you that you will begin to feel “strange” in the near future.  Some of you won’t know what it is, and it will border on depression.  Not being a physician, I can only tell you from experience that it will be feelings of impending loss and not clinical depression.  Your wonderful child is growing up faster than you imagined, will soon live elsewhere, and will become whomever she/he is destined to be.

All of those trips delivering your child to sporting events, play rehearsals, and other extracurricular activities will come to an end.  You might even begin to wonder what you will do with your time when your child is gone?  My experience tells me that it all works out in the end, but the transition is always difficult.

Even if you have other children yet to reach senior year, hearing your senior child talk about Senior Prom, Baccalaureate Night, Awards Assembly, senior trip and graduation will take its toll on you.  I remind myself each year that if I am feeling a sense of loss, I can only imagine how you must feel.

Assistant principal Jim Farnen and I have been meeting with small groups of seniors since October.  We invite one homeroom at a time, and about half of the students show up each time.  These are kind of like exit interviews where I ask what we can do to make Staples even better than it already is.  I also take the opportunity to thank them for what they have contributed to making Staples the wonderful school that it is.

Students in all other grades take their cue from the senior class each year. Believe me from experience, if 1,800 students want to make life miserable for the 200 adults each day, they can.  We work hard to treat your children with kindness and respect and, in turn, we are treated the same way.  You have done a remarkable job raising your sons and daughters.  You should be proud of who they have become.  Your job will continue to change, but you will always be an important part of their lives.

The countdown to graduation has begun.  It is an exciting, challenging, introspective, frightening, joyful, overwhelming and invigorating time for students.  John Dodig, his staff, the parents of Westport — the entire community — share those emotions.  It’s all part of preparing the next generation, and ourselves, for the future.

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