The last days of school for teachers are always bittersweet. We are at the end of a nine-month marathon; a race we all run carrying 20 souls on our backs while juggling test scores, field trips, new units, new initiatives, runny noses and snow days.
We spent the last days of kindergarten this year practicing our end-of-the-year culmination and trying to help the kids memorize four songs that even I couldn’t remember the words to. In between practices we tried to find the time to finish our journals, make cards for the important people at school and clean our classroom. We found missing books, dozens of Lego pieces, Garin’s lost Show and Tell light saber and someone’s tooth when we moved the furniture to sweep underneath. (Remind me to clean under the furniture more often next year and to check my teeth.)
I found myself on the verge of a full-blown anxiety attack on the day of the performance, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. The kids were in prime form each exhibiting signs of summer-itis, aka “Let’s drive the teacher out of her ever lovin’ mind today.” I was sure they were all just too excited for the performance and tried very hard to remember the angelic behavior they had shown me most of the year. However, they rose to the occasion.
Jhahova spent the day trying to straighten his “crooked drawers,” insisting that he just couldn’t possibly sit or stand while his drawers were so crooked. I then spent 10 minutes trying to explain what the word “drawers” meant. (Without laughing.)
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After insisting that Jhahova return to the bathroom to wash his hands after his “adjusting,” he claimed he just “wasn’t a hand-washing kind of guy.”
Ben cried four times during morning recess, claiming that the only reason he kept tackling people was because they were asking for it. Big time.
Suzy managed to spell many words correctly on the classroom rug instead of the white board that was conveniently sitting next to her. Of course, it was an accident.
Sally bit Jack because he wouldn’t get out of her way when she asked him a billion times to move. A BILLION.
During morning centers, Julia tried repeatedly to put her foot in Thad’s mouth. Fortunately for all of us (especially Thad), she was unsuccessful.
During the last rehearsal of the performance, most of my class decided to play a game of “Let’s push each other off the risers during the songs.” This did not delight the teacher.
By the end of what seemed like a long day, our afternoon performance was simply magnificent. I watched with joy, wonder and incredible pride as the children stood and sang like angels. I found myself holding back tears and more than one sob as I glanced around the packed gymnasium at the parents who hadn’t managed to hold it in.
We ended the performance in the gymnasium with a slideshow of pictures of all the children from the whole year. I sat down on the floor with the children, and my biggest challenge of the year scooted toward me until he was sitting next to me, holding my hand with his head on my shoulder.
At the end, the parents headed to their children’s classroom to finish the day with a special garden party. Parents, grandparents and siblings smiled and laughed with each other as they shared stories from the year and enjoyed tasty treats.
I worked the room, mingling with everyone and thanking them all for sharing their precious children with us this year. Toward the end of the party I was approached by an older gentleman who introduced himself as Jack’s grandfather. He explained that he had been in education for many years. He had been involved in education at the collegiate level for most of his career, and had then after his retirement spent many years as a substitute teacher.
“The point I’m trying to make is this,” he said. “I have been in many, many, many classrooms over the years — including kindergarten classrooms. I have to tell you that I have never been in a classroom that is as full of love and happiness as this one. Thank you.”
I was speechless.
Yep, the last days of school are always very bittersweet. But this year, on this day, the sweet was absolutely the sweetest.