living out loud


Today was the last day of school for kids. I have two more wrap up days. Today I tested incoming Kindergartners for language support services. Most of them are super excited about school; they’ve yet to be jaded by the system and the testing (ha, I’m joking…actually, long-time research shows most children decide by the end of 1st grade whether or not they like school. First two years of school = crucial).

Only one little boy refused to come with me – to get him into my testing area, I had to allow the dad in. I don’t know if this was protocol or not, but at the beginning I had to tell the dad, “You can’t help him. I know…it’s hard, but you can’t. He needs to do it on his own.”

And thus this dad’s process of letting go of his little one began: Welcome to Life 101. (And please be patient and kind with your child’s Kindergarten teacher…s/he wants to help them learn and grow, I promise.)

Times I cried today: twice. The first time was during the morning announcements. We do these over the closed circuit TV – our Media Center has a television studio and the 5th graders run the whole morning news show. I’ve always loved this, from the beginning back in 1998. It just sets the tone for the day. I still remember my 1st morning news announcements back in 1998 – standing with my little 1st graders during the Moment of Silence, praying for…just praying. Please help. Please don’t let me mess anybody up. Please get me to the end of the day and everybody home safe. Please don’t let me forget anything. I was only 3 years in, still a new teacher.

The second time was as the buses pulled away. I’ve had afternoon car rider duty all year, but my two awesome car rider duty compadres let me go do the Goodbye Buses! goodbye wave…the teachers all line the sidewalks, and the buses all honk their horns over and over as they drive away and the kids all wave frantically, some ecstatic with summer vacation joy and some in tears over missing a teacher they grew to love for 180 days or leaving a school they’ve been safe and loved in for 6 years – and we all wave back. Most of us are relieved and happy – PHEW, done and time to relax for a bit. No alarm clock at 5:00 AM…no papers to grade, lessons to plan…no evaluations to stress about…no data to analyze. And some of us were sad, or like me, crying. I’ve done 18 bus good-bye waves at this school. Eighteen. I have no idea how many children I’ve hugged or put in time out or sat and resolved arguments between or had philosophical discussions about butterfly life cycles with or just really, really loved, sometimes in spite of themselves and their terrible behavior issues. Just a lot. A lot of kids.

I sound sappy. I maybe sound negative. I am not. I’m just mourning. It’s hard to say good-by to somewhere that’s been part of your life for almost half your life, and almost your entire working career. I’m happy about my new job, I’m excited to get to know new people and new routines. I know there will be things I’ll learn and I’ll go: Man, my old school needs to do this! and other things I’ll learn and go: Man, I really will miss the way my old school did this. It’s okay. It’s all part of change and learning and growth.

But for today, tomorrow, and Friday (especially Friday), I get to mourn and be overly nostalgic and way sappy. On Saturday morning, I will hug the memories to my heart and I will say Thank You for everything you taught me, and Good-bye...and then release.

And then I begin a new book…not a new chapter, a new book. This is how Life moves and flows, because we sometimes are just ready to try something different. To take a big breath, cross our fingers, and jump. No safety nets.