Seniors are walking in for their last days at Syosset High School, where I work. As regular classes wind up, one of them tells me gleefully that it's "the last bell" of the year. I know better. For most, it's the last bell of their lives.
When their journey started nearly 13 years ago as kindergarteners, there was no bell. Teachers shepherded them to their assignments, and they held hands while walking though elementary school. At middle school and then high school, they became slaves to "the bell."
The bell told them when to arrive, when to eat and when to leave. Each student branched out in his or her own way, with different class selections, sports and clubs, but they all started and ended their days with the bell. On June 20, they will gather for graduation, and then their paths will separate.
Although college will never be confused with the real world, it certainly presents much more responsibility than childhood. There are no bells in college. And for most -- except for those who go into teaching or firefighting, perhaps -- there will be no bells in life.
This Syosset class started together all those years ago, and will arrive together at graduation. It will be the last time this unique group will experience life moments together. Free of the bell, some will fly with the eagles, while others may struggle without their old friend ringing in their ears.
There is no bell in life to tell you to change jobs, get married or have a child. They will leave school and travel on their own timetables. They will arrive at life destinations mostly of their choosing. Society, their parents and their teachers got them to this moment in time as a unit. Their futures, however, are in their own hands.
Today the bell rings for the last time. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for their childhood.