It’s been a tough year, a year of survival and many, many challenges. In my years of teaching, this has hands down been the worst year ever. I could go on and on about what made the year so tough, but it is a long list and not easily stated. I’ve had my eyes on the end all year. It has been my focus. Survival and the ability to make it to the end.
I don’t know how to put these things into words because it is such a hodgepodge of feelings and thoughts. You see, having had to focus on the end all year, I thought for sure I would be happy once the end finally arrived. Friday was the end to my year with my students and it isn’t a happy feeling after all. I am happy that we (my teaching team, the students and I) all made it, but I am not happy to say goodbye to these kids. I will walk into my empty classroom on Monday to finish packing up for summer and posting grades. It will hurt my heart to walk into that empty classroom. The desks are stacked, the student’s self portraits are down, art work and student papers have been removed. The classroom is practically bare and ready for the next group of kids.
Recently I looked out my classroom door and noticed that there were about 30 5th graders hanging around talking. I opened the door and loudly and sternly shouted, “GO HOME!!!” A look of horror fell upon the face of nearby adults and siblings were startled to hear a teacher yell like that. The 5th graders, however, had a completely different reaction. They turned, saw it was me, and immediately came to me for a group hug and casual conversation. They knew that I was not serious and laughed at me stating, “Oh Ms. H.” It was funny to watch this unfold. I knew that the kids would know right away that I was kidding. I had not anticipated the reaction of others. I knew that they would wonder about it, but I didn’t expect their looks of horror, followed with a quizzical glimpse and then smile upon smile.
I taught about ten of my 33 students last year as well. It is especially tough to say goodbye to those kids. We have deep bonds and most of them I am somewhat involved with their family as well. This year, I have helped students work through social issues, I have been a shoulder to cry on for several students who found their parents divorcing, other students had parents in and out of the hospital, a mother had cancer and I was a part of the diagnosis, the chemo and the radiation treatments. The student brought in the device that was inserted into her mother for chemo treatments. I was there (in the student and family’s life) when Mom was diagnosed and I was involved when Mom had her very last treatment over a year later. I was a part of the life of a child that walked out of the courthouse with only the clothes on his back into his mother’s care. The school was able to provide clothing until Mom was able to get all that she needed. I went to baseball games, softball games and birthday parties. I listened as they talked to me about their latest crushes and shared who their current boyfriend or girlfriend was. I watched the physical transformation from child to young adult. I listened to children cry that they don’t like their Mom or their Dad and why they felt that way. I received hug after hug after hug. A known gang member began to call me Mommy and continued to do so all year long. He was insistent that I was his “other mother.” Together, we laughed and we cried and today I realize just how very attached I am to these students. They are amazing kids and I love them. I hate to see them go.
I laugh with my kids, I share with my kids and I cry with my kids. They are so deeply rooted into my life. I couldn’t help but tell a few of them that I love them as we said our final goodbyes. I don’t usually let myself express love to my kids. Occasionally I find myself giving a kiss on the forehead, but this year, I knew that I had to tell some of them that I love them. I knew that the craziness of their home-life and the raging hormones of a pre-teen left some of them wondering if anyone loved them and I could not let them leave without hearing me say that yes, I really do love you.
How can I not be sad to see these kids go? Kids that know that when I “yell” I am only playing. Kids that know they can get a hug from me at anytime, kids that like to stand around and talk to me about nothing. Kids that have opened up and let me fully and completely into their lives. Goodbye guys. I WILL miss you!