Here’s the thing. I’m not good at goodbyes. I don’t like to lose people that I’m close to, people that I love, and so I don’t like to say goodbye.I cried when I read it, each class. Each class, at least a few people cried too. (Over a third of my first period was openly weeping by the end. LOVE the power of language.) Each class, after I finished, the class had a brief moment of complete silence....and then each class, everyone started clapping. Each class, as they filed out, every single kid came and hugged me - even my homie who didn't like my class. Maybe the speech helped him realize that I'd meant all of it, everything I'd said to him this year, everything I'd tried to do to help him; maybe he was finally able to let go of whatever was going on with him enough to be in the moment more clearly....or maybe he just didn't want to be the one kid who didn't hug me when all his friends were. :)
So here’s what you need to know. First, this is not goodbye. This is….see you later. Because you’ll come back and visit next year, and you’ll contact me this summer about your summer literacy challenge or just to say hi, and you’ll keep in touch, and it’s not goodbye.
I have loved every minute of being your teacher. You are all so amazing – smart, kind, funny, creative, brave, silly, sweet – awesome. I am so glad I came to 8th grade this year so that I got to have this experience with you all. It has been my privilege to get to spend a few months, or a year, or two years with some of you, as your teacher.
I’m sure I have learned as much from you all as you have from me; maybe more in some cases. I wish I could be your teacher forever, that I could go with you to high school and just keep learning and growing together. But I can’t (which I’m sure some of you are really glad about), and that’s why you’re going to come visit.
As you go into your summers and you celebrate finishing 8th grade and starting high school, as you spend time with your friends and your families, as you have fun and sleep and play games and read and write and live….remember to be happy. Remember that you shine, that when I look into this room I see the glow that comes from deep within every one of you. Remember that you can change the world, and that you can be the people that I teach my future students about.
In Freedom Writers, when Miep Gies comes and talks to the students, one student gets up and says that she’s his hero. And she says that they are the real heroes and their faces are engraved on her heart. You are all heroes to me. You all do things that are heroic every day, whether big or small. You are heroes. And your faces are engraved on my heart.
Actually, one kid did not hug me, just waved, but that's of course totally fine; he and I got along okay but we certainly weren't close. And on that last day of school, we were hugging up a storm everywhere: during the awards assembly, in classes, in the post-class celebration....a lot of people got their 12 hugs a day for growth (and then some) that day.
Before I read the speech for the first time, I felt a little weird. Would they think it was lame? Would they be like, dude, don't be pathetic? And some of them probably did feel that way - but I don't care. I'm an emotional person and I wanted them to know how much I care about them and how much I have enjoyed being their teacher. I wanted to end the year with that. Some of these kids were there on my very first day of being a teacher ever; I wanted to close out their middle school career with....well, with joy.
They promised to come visit. They better keep that promise.
(Image credit to megarooo)