It has been with mounting excitement that I viewed the calendar over the last few weeks. Somehow, without really knowing HOW the year went so quickly, it was already April.
Teachers are quite tuned into the school calendar. Summer is usually met with relief, excitement, and exhaustion.
The last day of school, though? Ahhh. It is such a bittersweet day. A vulnerable day.
It is hard to explain if you have not spent an extended time with a specific group of people, but each year, a teacher gains a new family.
In August, tanned faced 7 and 8 year olds entered my classroom, feeling both nervous and excited. I looked at the group in front of me and took a deep breath–in that breath, I grieved for the students they were not (the class I had the year before) and hoped I could come to love each one of them as deeply as I loved the students I had the previous school year.
As the weeks went on, my students and I got to know one another’s quirks. We laughed together and cried together. I heard hilarious stories and statements. I watched as some dealt with traumatic life events that no little person should have to endure.
Slowly, we began to trust. We began to love one another.
Before I knew it, the weeks had turned into months and we were all eagerly anticipating Christmas break. Any good teacher will tell you–we need that break. We need to rejuvenate. December is a rush of madness and fun, and it is exhausting even for the best of us.
As the bell rang on the final school day in December, I happily hugged each one of my students and reminded them to have a wonderful vacation and that I would be here, waiting for each of them to return.
And return they did. Some returned elated, with stories of trips and extravagant gifts. Other returned with stories of foster homes and heartbreak.
But, I was there. I hugged each of these babies and squealed over their gifts and oohhed and ahhed over their trips. I held them when they cried that they didn’t get to spend Christmas with Mom and Dad because Dad had gone to prison and Mom had temporarily suspended custody.
February came and went in a blink of an eye, with lots of pink and red and sweet little handmade Valentine’s. Suddenly, March was here and we began to talk about how soon the school year would be over.
None of us chose to worry too much, however. May 21, after all, seemed like a long way away when all of March and April spread out before us.
And then, I blinked. Suddenly it was field day and field trip day. The spring concert was over and we were cleaning out desks and lockers, returning library books and handing out end-of-the year awards.
Yesterday, I stood in front of these students I had hoped I could love last August (and their parents, too), and I tried to describe just how much I had fallen in love with this group of kids. Every. Single. One. of them had something to love.
Yes, there were days I wanted to pull out my hair and days where I went home and cracked open a bottle of wine. But, on all of those days, I could close my eyes and remember that tomorrow would be a new day, and a new chance to make a difference in their lives.
And, after a whirlwind of a year, it ends.
Endings are vulnerable.
Relationship building is vulnerable.
It is also my WHY. My reason for teaching.
Teachers, for me, were my lifeline. Those people in my world, as a little girl, who were always there for me.
Every year, it is my goal to be there for all of my students. Through successes and failures, tears and laughter.
Yesterday, I looked around the room with sadness in my heart. Because I knew. This year is over. This class is leaving…and no class will ever be exactly the same or exactly as wonderfully designed.
Some kids will leave with a brief goodbye and a high five, eager to get home and enjoy summer. Others will linger, wanting to cling to me a little more, a little longer. Some will grab on and hug me even tighter. I will explain, again and again, that I will be back and that I will always be there, waiting to talk or give a hug.
But, it is with sadness that all of us realize it will never be exactly the same. Never again will we be this same small, tight knit group. This same, tight knit little family.
They will change. They will grow.
So will I.
But, once they walk through my classroom door, I will never stop loving them. Or telling them so.
I’m a teacher. I love summer break. I need it, and the time for self care that it provides. I need it to recharge and re-energize.
And most importantly, I need it to be able to put this year on the shelf and open up my heart and soul for an entirely new group of 7 and 8 year olds to love next year.
Because I will love the next class differently, but just as much.
It is what teachers do. ❤