Wednesday, June 07, 2006

School Memories: The Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school. Even with that being the case, I still have several "School Memories" to share for the next week or two. I've found this is a good way to catalog my memories from the year before they become fuzzy and lost.

Even though I've only experienced two "last" days of school as an educator, I feel that they are anti-climactic. In the high school, we end with finals: students come in on one day, take a seat, take a long test, and then leave when the time ends. In middle school, we slowly ramp down: students have some casual days with word games, have a final day where they ask teachers to sign their yearbooks, and all this during a whirlwind shortened schedule. I try to somehow capture what we have experienced together, but words fail me and I falter.

Then there's the rush to make sure that your room is closed up for the summer and that you get checked out as efficiently as possible. Students are straining to have summer begin, while there's this feeling of, "What's next?" I wonder what will come of my students, how they will change, what forces outside their control they will encounter and how they will respond.
Unfortunately, I will learn little of these developments, since I'm taking my leave of the district. Some updates will reach my ears and I will rejoice in the successes and mourn at the losses. Once they leave my room, we lose a special connection; I am a teacher they rushed to daily with updates about life, and I learned of the reasons for their mood swings. We are a collective that bonded through the year, and now this unit is being separated. I, too, am glad for a season of change, but I need to reflect on how this time has changed me before I too quickly celebrate my freedom from the more trying children.

So at the end of the day, I am left with a few new tokens to expand my collection, gifts and cards shyly given by students, and I fondly remember the words of colleagues spoken in parting. I go through life day by day, sometimes too distracted with minor demands that I loose sight of those around me. However, I always cherish the connections I make with teachers in passing. One esteemed math teacher entered my room before school today and wished me luck, speaking specifically as to why she will miss me. As she did so, she became choked up. As I went for a hug, my eyes became teary as well. Here, a woman I greatly respect was counting me as a friend and spoke of the impact I had on her, even with the slight encounters we had throughout the year.

This is a bittersweet parting. I feel as if I'm on the cusp of relationships; were I to stay, I would be delighted to see them deepen and to watch my students mature and become adults.

So as this chapter ends, I remain grateful that a high-school principal saw potential in me and offered me a job in a district that shaped and supported me through the process.

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