It’s the last day of school.
You close your eyes and breathe a deep sigh of relief as you give one more hug to your last student as he is dismissed. You smile and wave as you watch him run to his car. You do a happy dance and high five one of your teammates. “It’s FINALLY summer!” you yell as you skip back to your classroom. You collapse in an exhausted heap in your teacher chair, munching on the last slice of cookie cake, and are overwhelmed with fantasies of sleeping in, poolside reading, and long summer days spent with friends and family.
No more grading. No more lesson plans. No more meetings.
No more days spent with “your kids.”
As you look around your classroom, you see his miniature pencil that he still insists on writing with. You see her desk tag decorated with stickers and glitter. You see the collection of little notes and artwork from your students hanging on the wall behind your desk. You see a piece of writing on a bulletin board that they completed on the first day of school, so very long ago.
They’ve come so far since then.
All of a sudden, you are surprised to look up and see a child running back into your classroom. You know exactly who this child is. She’s “the one you’d never let go,” if you had the choice. The child that is always putting others before herself. Always first to hug you in the mornings and tell you she missed you. Always the student that, no matter how rough the day may be, feels like your saving grace. She insists on sitting next to your most challenging student and patiently coaches him with his classwork. Always showing kindness, empathy, compassion, leadership.
Without warning, she throws herself into your lap with tears in her eyes and whispers,
“I’ll never love another teacher as much as you.”
And all at once, all those feelings of relief and excitement about the summer days ahead are replaced with a sense of overwhelming sadness.
These kids, the ones that consume every ounce of our energy, patience, and love for seven hours a day, the ones that get us out of bed every morning, are moving on to a new grade and a new teacher. Without us.
You see, it doesn’t matter how taxing a particular year might be or how challenging a certain student might be. Each year, we take a certain pride and ownership in every single one of them, and we invest everything we have. Regardless of how our students come to us, regardless of their backgrounds and home lives and social flaws and academic deficiencies, we take them and love them as they are. And we do everything in our power to make them better little people in one year’s time.
We take credit for the fact that he’s finally mastered his 9s in multiplication. Or that she finally learned how to communicate and cooperate with a partner. Or that he learned how to write complete sentences with a capital letter AND a period.
Yes, even our toughest kids. In fact, we often take even more responsibility and credit for them. We often take a protective roll over the progress they’ve made, no matter how little it might seem to someone else. We pray regularly that he will have a patient and loving teacher next year who won’t give up on him. That he’ll overcome his circumstances and become more than what life has dealt him. That he’ll “turn out okay.”
Years ahead, you’ll hear his name announced for honor roll and cheer louder than anyone. You’ll read her name in the newspaper for receiving a leadership scholarship, and you’ll beam and tell your teacher friend, “she’s my kid.” You’ll receive a heartfelt Facebook message from her, telling you that because of you, she is going to college to be an elementary teacher.
Because no matter how many years pass in this crazy teaching life, our hearts will always be connected, and “our kids” will always be “our kids.”
***Beautiful styled images by Jen Jones of Hello Literacy and fonts by Kimberley Geswein.***