The books were packed up, the desks cleaned out, and goodbyes were said. “Have a great summer!” was echoed by all the students and myself as they walked out of the classroom for the last time.
Another school year was finished. I sat down at my desk. The students may be gone, but the names, faces, hopes and lives of the children were still full in my heart. Summer break had begun for them, but not for me. One simply cannot instantly turn off the care, compassion, and personal investment a teacher has with each student. Class is in session for less than a year, but what an intensely powerful year for both the students and teacher!
For students and teachers, the end of the year means emotions are running at full capacity. For the teacher, the end of the year means testing, doing special projects, taking a field trip, running reports, counting inventories, placing orders for the next year, and did I mention testing? We teachers don’t have a moment to spare as the end draws near.
But for the students? The kids know they’re going to miss school, and even are surprised about it! Of course they will miss the friends they made that year. Friends are SO important for children–aren’t they for us, too? And what about for the kids moving out of town? When they realize that they may not ever see their friends again, the children become quite somber and hurriedly exchange addresses, phone numbers,and promises to write or call, along with several tearful hugs.
For other students, summer break means they will miss the academic and creative challenges of school, or even the safety they felt in our daily structure and routines. For others, the hot breakfasts, lunches, and the Friday care packages from Blessings in a Backpack will be sorely missed. Some students will even miss their teachers—no kidding, they really do! That’s when the child will look up to me with wondering eyes and ask “Will you miss me?” I am always quick to answer, “Yes! I will miss you SO much!” I say that for two reasons: First and most importantly, I say it because it’s true. I am a teacher. I teach because I care. I care equally for each of my students. They will forever have a place in my heart. A place they carved out themselves just by being a unique individual and by sharing a time of their life with me. Secondly, I say it because they need to hear it. Some students more than others. They need to know that they matter, they need the confirmation that their lives have value. I want them to know that they DO matter. I hope I have taught them through this past year that their future is important to the people that love them, to the world they are a part of, and to me. They matter to me. That’s why they need to hear me say, “I will miss you SO much!”
But now another year has ended and I realize that I just have one more year of hellos and goodbyes. One more year for another class of students to grow, learn and share their lives with me.
So I should now go on about my own life without the little flock of 24 children that I have had seven hours a day, five days a week for the last nine months; without their stories of home and their tales from the playground. Without the reading and math, language and spelling, learning and listening, talking and doing, and of course, assessing, scoring and recording, running reports, attending meetings, and working on curriculum….. who am I kidding? I think I’ll be just fine! After all– school’s out! It’s summer!!