I love Ruth’s reminders to celebrate each week on her blog (HERE).
Tuesday will wrap-up my fifteenth year teaching in Monticello. Saying good-bye never gets easier. Never. Each year I look at that beautiful sea of faces staring up at me – most excited to begin their summer, some a bit apprehensive about leaving what is known – and I get choked up. Five years ago that sea of faces expanded. No longer was I self-contained and sharing my year with 25 or so students, but my circle expanded to three of the five fifth grade classrooms and 75+ children each year.
It is hard to say goodbye.
Friday was our last day switching for subjects for the year. Monday will see my students helping to close up our room, pack away their supplies, and a chance to learn from a speaker. Tuesday we will have our “field day” will all sorts of events for the kids to play on. So Friday was it.
I began the class the way I always do on our last day, reflecting on our reading for the year, taking photos with each child sharing how many books they read during our time together. The room was filled with laughter and chatter. Kids shared titles, exclaimed over how much they had read. We had a long discussion before beginning regarding these “numbers” – how there was no competition. 12 books were celebrated as much as 200. The students were fascinated on the total amount the entire classroom read and cannot wait to find out how much our three rooms read once my class does this activity on Monday. And with the last photo taken, it was time to read.
I read aloud every single day to my students. Often it is a picture book. Occasionally it is a chapter book. With our condensed class time, those books are often saved for the homerooms. Sometimes it is an article or the back of the book for a book talk. Today would be our last read aloud time together.
The students moved into the position they knew well after our time together. Circled up at the carpet, they smiled. I told them it would be a new book; I have never read it to a classroom before. When I shared the title, author, and illustrator, murmurs of recognition flooded the room. They knew this pair’s work with previous picture books we have shared. And then, I read.
As I read, my brain kept jumping ahead. I was thinking things like:
I’ve totally got this. In control, no problem.
I wonder if they understood that metaphor?
Love this one, so powerful.
Oh no, sadness creeping into my heart, no. Still will see them before Tuesday. I’ve got this.
And then, all too soon, I reached the last two pages. The impact of the book and the finality of this time hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew the cry was coming. A sob escaped my lips before I could stop it. I looked up at their faces and saw watery eyes staring back.
I finished and put the book on my lap. Deep breath.
I stood and started to talk. I tried to tell them how much it meant to be their teacher. How I will love them forever and will always be here if they need me. Why I fought so hard to make reading and writing a part of their life.
I don’t know if they heard me. Tears were streaming and I couldn’t hold them back.
I finally surrendered to it and told them they were welcome to read for the last few minutes, that I needed to have a moment. I turned to get a tissue and was surrounded with arms. Student after student came to give me a hug. Words were whispered. I heard more than once, “I don’t want to go.”
Teaching is so powerful; sometimes we forget the impact we can make. In the day-to-day part of our job, we are juggling so many balls; we’re just trying to keep them from falling. Friday morning I got that awesome reminder that what we do matters. It really does. There is nowhere I would rather be.
For the record, I made it through the second class with minimal tears. I was prepared.
I make no promises on reading this book to my homeroom on our last day. I think I should probably stock up on the tissues now.
And, should you want to have your own emotional meltdown, go check out the book that caused the ugly cry. You will be glad you did.