I just left them all standing there, outside of my door, with tears streaming down their faces while they consoled one another. As I walked through the crowd that had gathered, finding small gaps between the embraces, I gave a passing wave to the few who caught my eye. Some stopped me for a quick hug, which I brushed off as quickly as I did their tears from the shoulder of my shirt.
For them, today marked an end. It was an end to a ten-year struggle of challenges and seemingly pointless trials. It was the end of friendships. It was the end of elementary school.
Locked in their homerooms all day, scolded every time they left to be with the people they wanted to see most – the people who they wanted to remember most – they couldn’t help but experience a sudden rush of emotion as the bell rang and they were, all of sudden, free to rejoice with one another. It was wrong of us to keep such a close eye on them today, to worry about what they might do if they were together. We made today harder for them than it should have been.
Today should have been a day of celebration. A day of ear-piercing joyful screams, of belly-aching laughter, and of sudden tears dried by crispy, brown, recycled paper towels.
Of all days, today was the worst day. Today, they should have been together.
Looking back on the school year, it was absolutely incredible for me. I worked with a cohort of amazing young people who taught me more than I was could have taught them. For one entire school year, I got to watch this group grow and get closer to the people who they might be one day. I laughed with them, raised my voice at them, had a few swear at me, and, well, we all made fun of each other. Classes were never boring. The students never let it be.
From math to menstruation, I covered it all with my students. Everything from the curriculum to their relationship crises, we talked about. Not all of it was formalized learning. In fact, so much of it was tangential and impromptu.
It was those small conversations, those quick, off-handed, comments, that stand out most for me.
When I was rushing out of school today, I was heading to an interview. At interviews, I have to speak to how I engage students in the formal learning, the curriculum, the teacher-student relationship. I have to use teacher-jargon and provide examples of the work that I’ve done, supporting my claims with pedagogy.
How do you explain that not only did I help students learn how to communicate algebraic thinking, but I also developed rich relationships with them and allowed them to explore and express the people who they are?
When I got home today, I was filled with a mix of emotions. I was touched, overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, regretful, and just a bit sad.
All year, I invested everything I could into my students. I gave time, money, and knowledge. Then, today, on the last day of school, I rushed past them to get somewhere else, somewhere they won’t be, somewhere I hope to be.
I hope that all of my students get to where they want to be and that they pause, for just a moment when they get home, after rushing past a memory of me.