|Baby Isabel's Quilt|
I woke up this morning at 4:30, and told myself, “Go back to sleep! You’re done!” And, for a few moments I reveled in the peacefulness that always comes when I’ve cleaned up and sorted out the accumulation of paperwork and mess that constitutes a year in the life of a classroom teacher. My eyes popped back open when I remembered that I forgot to complete the paperwork for my personal leave buyback. I vaguely recall posting it on the whiteboard, so that I wouldn’t forget, but my sweet husband had come to help me haul home the stuff I couldn’t cram anywhere else, and we sort of rushed the last minute details of getting out of there last night.
Getting out of bed, I rummaged through my bag, and the crates I brought home, checking to see if I took the form with me. I didn’t. Ah well, one more short jaunt back to school this morning won’t upset my summer too much . . .
Yesterday was a day of good-byes. We said “good bye” to a much loved retiring teacher, our principal who is moving to another school, and our ALC teacher (formerly special education) who is moving to another school. There were tears and hugs, and best wishes all around.
We also celebrated a new baby, born three weeks ago, and she was literally showered with a new wardrobe and board books, as a room full of teachers are wont to do. I had made a quilt for Tiffany and Isabel, and was a little worried, because it wasn’t pastel and girly, but it had felt so “right” and I went with gut feelings. When it was pulled from the bag, I heard the collective gasp, and Tiffany’s incredulous, “Did you make this? I LOVE it!” I knew it was just right.
Good byes with my students were bittersweet. It was a rough year, with more behavioral challenges than I’ve had in one room in ten years. There were days when I wasn’t sure I could hold my sanity together, and exhausting nights when I couldn’t sleep for fearful anticipation of what the next day would bring.
At our school, we “promote” from elementary to middle school with a celebration. The students sing, play marimba music, give speeches, and receive certificates of promotion. The gym is packed with parents, grandparents and siblings. It was telling that my two most challenging students did not have anyone there to share this rite of passage with them. I thought about how tough they both were, calloused and stoic, as though the flurry of flashbulbs and hugs surrounding them were invisible. My heart aches for kids whose parents are absent, physically and emotionally. Those are the kids I never forget, etched in my memory until dementia someday brings relief from the sadness of neglect.
The rest of the parents, astutely aware of the positive impact I had on their children, showered me with plants, flowers, gifts and cards of appreciation. All wanted pictures, gave warm hugs (the moms) or handshakes, (the dads) and renewed my faith in my profession. Towards the end, I was asked for a photo with one of my boys. His sister, who I had three years ago, said, “I want to be in the picture, too!” Sandwiched between them, with my arms around them both, I smiled. I was reminded again of why I teach. After both shots, and one last hug from the mom, she begged me to teach at least three more years, as that is when her last child will be in 5th grade. I can’t make any promises, but families like that are my reason for teaching.
This school year is finished. The crazy thing is that I’m already thinking about, and looking forward to the coming year. I guess it’s the teacher in me that just can’t let it go. But, it is summertime, so I’ll give it a try!