The end of the school year always leaves me feeling a little like these tulips down the street. August and September, the bulbs are buried deep within the earth, a spring’s worth potential months away. In full bloom, they are everything, bold and bright, tall and strong. But it’s June now; the petals are falling; the stalks are listing gently to one side. Now the last week of school, graduation night upon us, we are hoping a stiff wind won’t blow us down, sending our remaining strength strewn about the street like the finished fibers of a dandelion. We are tired and vulnerable and far, far away from fresh-faced.
But wasn’t it a great year?
And in the ways that matter most, it sure was. Our students and fellow colleagues were mostly kind to one another almost EVERY, SINGLE DAY. We have tremendous humans in our schools coming from a variety of home life situations like every school in the world. They learn independently and collaboratively. They develop their skills as readers, writers, speakers, and critical thinkers. Our seniors will float away after tonight’s graduation either heading to some form of higher education, or the work force, or the military or a wacky combination of whatever is needed; yet, they know far more than they did as “fresh” men and women. And we teachers are still standing. Sort of. We also may be listing slightly to the right or left like that tulip, not ready to throw in the towel altogether, but really looking forward to a break.
My son’s third grade teacher sent me the following text yesterday while coming home on the bus from the Native American History Museum field trip.
“Hate to tell you but Carver took off some of his eyebrows with the scotch tape he brought with him on the bus.”
Why had my kid packed scotch tape in his school bag , you find yourself asking? It’s how we kill the multitude of ticks which have been plaguing us this wet, dreary spring. Yes, we seal up their little blood sucking bodies in scotch tape and throw them away. I wondered if she had ever had to tell another parent that she was returning a child with fewer eyebrow hairs. My son pushed some boundaries this year beyond his language; he convinced a classmate to give him $50.00 in exchange for the “smallest pencil in the world.” He also arrived home on the bus with an iPhone 10 he traded for one Pokemon card because this other 4th or 5th grade boy felt bad that “Carver’s mom won’t let him have a cell phone until 8th grade.” He struggled with math, but his teacher convinced him she would always be there to help with the tough problems, especially when Mom or Dad didn’t know the right words to say at home at the kitchen table. He became proud of giving presentations– both during a poetry slam and his research on Native American history. His teacher helped him to see himself as a student and not just a performer for comedic relief.
Similarly, my daughter has recently been sharing how her second grade teacher never has to raise his voice. “Like never, Mom. He just uses his regular voice, and we listen. He doesn’t have to yell like you yell at us all the time, Mom.” All. The. Time. That Mr. Bradshaw, I would agree, is magical. And, for the record, I don’t yell All. The. Time. Honestly. I try to explain to her and her bedraggled braids, which were “washed” once this week only because we had swimming lessons. I’ve had to be extra patient with my big kids. It’s the end of the year, and there are essays to review and revisions to suggest and speeches for seniors to write for graduation and speeches to give because students asked us to give one, an honor certainly and a lot of work actually. We care that the words we choose to tell them are entertaining, light hearted, funny, nostalgic, and inspiring, because now that they are about to leave the garden of childhood, they are really listening very deeply to everything.
So we apologize to those living with us if the end of the school year is a little bit too much. I apologize to my own children for being short of patience and terrible with grocery shopping and dinner selections lately. I apologize to my husband for sighing (or dramatically (or yelling) with every request to find something he can’t reach. Oh, and that laundry. Oops. And what is that smell? A leftover snack or lunch parcel that didn’t get thrown out or washed out after school like I ask them to do every, single day. And also the tooth fairy must be extra busy because she hasn’t come in three nights. But, son, you need to remember to put the tooth under your pillow and not leave it on the kitchen table where she can’t possibly find it beneath the carnage of papers and craft projects.
But here we are. Almost at the end of the year. And it will end. The final bell will ring. Children of all ages across the world will run out of doors excited for the summer ahead. So will we. Then those bulbs will take root in the fall when we begin a new year of school. Ready, refreshed and eager for the new faces to fill the seats in our classrooms, we will be.