The heart is a curious, amazing muscle. It pumps a couple of thousand gallons of blood through your body, beats about 3.6 million times a year, gets broken about a million times during your lifetime and has a direct line to your tear ducts. (Trust me on that one.)
Wednesday was the day my heart cracked again.
Wednesday was the day I bid farewell to the 20 little souls that lived in my classroom for the past 181 days.
These were the children who brought me many challenges. They pushed me to find new ways to build community. They may or may not have been the reason I ripped my hair out on occasion, and they might have had me crying after school several days in the fall. They are also the ones who eventually brought me incredible joy and daily bouts of laughter. I’ll miss them more than they know, and more than I care to think about.
I’ll miss the boy who thought, at recess, when I said “Go down to the other door” to go the bathroom that I meant pee in the bushes.
I’ll miss the girl who thought, at recess, when I said, “Go down to the other door” to go to the bathroom that I meant pee in the bushes.
I’ll miss the girl who brought me laughter each and every morning, and when I caught her doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing would laugh and say “You sure do love me, Miss Marsh!”
I’ll miss the boy who hugged me every single morning and every single afternoon at dismissal. (Even if he did push the envelope every single minute in between.)
I’ll miss the girl who wanted to throw dung balls at the bad guys at recess.
I’ll miss the girl who used the S-word in a story and thought it was just fine. (Frankly, it was used in perfect context.)
I’ll miss the boys who would call each other drama queens and giggle.
I’ll miss the darling who marched to her own drummer and argued with almost every request I made. But she learned to read in spite of herself and brought me joy every day. She kindly invited me to her end-of-the-year musical performance, which I happily attended with her family. I was most honored and incredibly delighted to watch her shine like a beacon.
I’ll miss the swag man, who developed into a reading and writing machine before my very eyes, all the while wearing a gold watch a hundred times too big for him that most certainly belonged to a certain big brother who probably wondered all year long where his watch went. (It might have lived in a certain desk in our classroom.)
I’ll miss the three superheroes who came to school on costume day and spent the whole morning making necklaces. (“Wait,” I said, “Who’s saving the world right now?”)
I’ll miss the boy who would hold his breath while practicing to battle a great white shark. The same boy who rode his horse down the hall and wore his cowboy boots every day.
I’ll miss the children who learned to love reading, who stole moments in the day to read under tables, who adored writer’s workshop and would practically weep every Friday afternoon.
I’ll miss the challenges, the pencils on the floor, the notes on my desk, the books left open on tables, the emails from parents, the forgotten homework and the sound of joyous laughter floating through the room like soapy bubbles on a summer day.
I’ll spend the summer repairing my heart, and allowing it to rest and stretch as it makes room for the 20 new souls I will welcome in September.
That’s what summer is for — heart healing and heart stretching. Because, sure, the heart has to beat and all, but it also has to make room for all the children that will be living in this very classroom, and this very heart, next year.
Debbie Marsh is a teacher at Easterly Parkway Elementary in State College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at a certain beach in Mystic, Conn.