The end of the school year has proven to be a very, very busy time, full of events and stresses, and very little time to spare. Between finishing up everything curriculum-wise, moving my room to the other side of the building and packing up what won't fit into a closet and my tiny little office at home, writing end of the year paperwork, going to award ceremonies and retirement events, preparing for a new year in a new(ish) assignment, and saying goodbye...it's been exhausting.
But, I am now breathing a sigh of relief, as it is officially summer. SUMMER, that glorious time of rest, rejuvenation, and turning into an utter boneless puddle on the couch because the end of the year finally catches up to you.
It's hard, saying goodbye to a group of students who you've spent SO MUCH TIME with over the 10 months of the school year, knowing that some of them you may not see again. It's hard to give those hugs and wave goodbye to the last bus run home and write the thank you notes for cards and little gifts that some students give, even in middle school. But it's also wonderful. We've shared so much in our time together, seen so much growth. I've hugged and consoled and held garbage cans filled with puke. I've worried and cared and hoped for a better experience in life for so many. I've laughed and been silly and experienced what it's like to have someone say your name over and over (not "mom mom mom mom mom" but "Mrs. T__, Mrs. T___, Mrs. T___, Mrs. T____" -- and sometimes I've been called "Mom" either by accident or not. It was amazing to go on the Washington DC Trip this year. It was great to stay the entire time down at the 8th grade Luau on the hottest day of the year, because my students asked me to and how could I say no? Sure, I had progress reports to write and a room to move, but how do you say no when a small group of 14 year olds actually WANTS you to spend time with them?
And, I went to graduation for the first time this year.
That was amazing, because I didn't realize it until after, but this group graduating actually had students who were in the first grade class where I student taught many years ago -- they were my beginning. It also was a class that held my first classes as a full time teacher at my middle school -- the first year where I didn't travel and could be a push-in teacher, meeting and working with more kids all in one place. So it's where I began my journey into teaching in the first place, and where I landed in what's hopefully my home for a really long time.
It was crazy to see how the students become young people, not-so-little ADULTS walking across that stage. It was amazing to have one student who I had for Resource and CT English see me walking out and gave me a big hug and chat with me about how he's hoping to go into the Marines, and how well he's doing. Also it was more than a little weird that he was 6'4" and TOWERED over me. I saw girls who looked pretty much the same, and boys who looked completely different. It's amazing how much kids change from 8th grade to senior year. It's only 4 years, but some I didn't even recognize!
It was awesome to run into a student who I most worry about, who I hope comes back to visit and who I wish I could have raised myself, in a version of the world where life was fair. Her older sister graduated, and she was SO EXCITED to run into me, even though she'd last seen me only three days before.
I loved that the principal, in talking about the students' futures, didn't say that kids that were an eventuality, but said, "if you have kids," which covers both not wanting to go that route and wanting to but having it not work out.
I loved being a part of a school community that saw these young people through to the endgame of this particular phase of their lives.
I loved that I didn't feel sad that I'll never be in the audience as a parent, as so many teachers I work with were that night. I didn't feel sad because I can be a part of all of these kids' lives and go to as many graduations as I'd like to, and never have that "empty nest" bittersweetness of sending my child off to their (relative) independence and future lives, because my nest has always been empty.
And in a way, I could argue that my empty nest gives me the ability to give so much energy, love , and attention to these kids who are mine in 40 minute increments, for 40 weeks of each year.