I didn’t cry at school on Thursday.
I thought I might, but I made it through. Some of my kids wanted me to cry, I think. Tears mean they matter. Tears are a tangible expression of my love for them. But I didn’t. It was such a good day that tears just didn’t come.
When I told them that I would be moving to 8th grade, they were delighted. Countless kids asked if I could arrange it so they were on my core again. I told them I couldn’t, that it’s all done by computers. One particularly enterprising student suggested that I hack the system; I said I’d take it into consideration. Another student, who’d choiced out of my low-rated urban school for a highly rated suburban school for next year, said he’d come back for 8th grade so that he could be in my class again. I told him that was probably not the way to choose a school but that I appreciated his enthusiasm.
I told a few former students, current 7th graders. They screamed so loudly that a custodian came rushing over, sure someone was mortally wounded.
Three of my girls wrote me a letter about how much they were going to miss me. They’d typed it up, decorated it with hearts and flowers and squiggly things, and put it in a red folder. That was the closest I came to tears.
One of my boys hugged me….and hugged me…and hugged me. Finally I told him he had to let me to go to class. He agreed. Kept hugging. I said it again. Yep, he said, he definitely had to stop and he would, but then he didn’t. Finally I pried his hands loose. I know that I’m his favorite teacher because I have more patience for his antics than some of my colleagues, but I also know that sixth graders are short and hormonal and his head is riiiiiiiight at breast level.
DC asked if I was going to cry. I said I wasn’t sure. “Don’t,” he said. “If you cry, I’ll cry.” So he was safe.
I had all my students sign a yearbook; I buy one each year because I think they’re a nice memento of the year. One student wrote that I was her hero. Several, including the Charmer, wrote that I was the best teacher ever. BB Bob thanked me for helping him so much this year. DC drew a self-portrait and wrote simply, “Miss u.” I might have cried if I’d read those at the time, but I waited till Friday.
At the end of each class, I reminded my kids of the part in Freedom Writers when Miep Gies comes to visit and talks about how ordinary everyday people can be heroes, and how we’d talked about that and I believed it too. Then I reminded them that she also said their faces were engraved in her heart. I told them that their faces were engraved in my heart, that it had been my honor to teach them this year, and that I would miss them all and couldn’t wait to see them next year. A few of them got all misty eyed at that, but I timed it so the bell rang right after I finished speaking, so they sniffled it away and moved on.
We finished the day with an awards assembly. I wish more kids could be recognized for their achievements, but we increased the numbers this year and I’ll work on it again for next year. Plus they’d all gotten the notes from me about their strengths, so that’s kind of like a mini-award. At the end of the assembly, I was mobbed. Kids surrounded me, hugging me and asking for pictures and saying how much they were going to miss me. They are so sweet and so loving and so open; that’s one thing I will miss about sixth graders. Eighth graders are more reserved. Too cool for school. I'm looking forward to a lot of it, but that'll be a loss.
It was a fabulous end to a fabulous year. Painful and challenging at times, yes, but what worthwhile things aren’t? I’m looking forward to resting and rejuvenating this summer. But I also have to start planning – I have a whole new curriculum to get ready for.