No, I’m not being apocalyptic. But tomorrow is the last “regular” day I will have with my “odd-day” students; these are the students who gave me the picture-collage. This is where I have the student whose tears are sacred.
Tomorrow, my heart is going to be stripped a bit, the edges made a bit ragged as I wish these students farewell. I hate good-byes. They feel so permanent. No, I need to tell them that I love them. I need to tell them that I hope for the best for them. I need to tell them that I will always care for them and will remind them of their inherent goodness.
But one of the last times I truly said good-bye was to my grandfather when he was dying. Even then, I couldn’t really say good-bye. So I asked him to tell Jesus hi for me. It was the best that I could do. Sounds a bit dorky now.
That’s okay. I’m a dork. I’m one with my dorkiness.
My classroom is pretty much packed up into boxes that hold my memories, my loved books, my sense of professional identity. Tomorrow, I am going to beg students to help me move boxes from one of the school to the other; it is time for me to find my new habitat and start acclimating much like a Darwinian evolution.
Tomorrow, I will start the process of being pulled away from being a teacher of seniors. I have been in this world since 2002 and the idea of not being fully immersed in this world whose corners and angles and shadows I know so well is a bit frightening. I love working with seniors and I worry that I won’t reach my future sophomores as much as I want to. Then, I remember my last class of tenth graders, back in 2002-2003 and remember how that was the year of Lauren (my daughter’s first word), Jenna, Dani, Chris, Sarah, and the Brads. And I remember that loving teaching means that I don’t love the curriculum as much as I love my students. Therefore, no matter where I am and what I am doing, I will find my rhythm and I will do my best to just do my best for my students.
If that makes any sense.
My world continually shifts and changes. One moment, I am teaching literature. Next year, I will be teaching Age of Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers. Tomorrow, I will be saying farewell to my students who have held my heart and guided my research on student apathy. Next year, I will be working with an entirely different group of people.
Am I mourning this change? No. I am a bit intimidated. I don’t think it’s a sin to confess this calm-edged anxiety. In the last month, I have spent hours of time talking with my students about what they have learned, what they have read. I have worked with my future team-teachers and started seeing that what I have been teaching is not so far from what they do as well. My orbit is not shifting that much.
The stars that will populate my skies will be different. And, even then, how much more different will they be? Remove the IQ numbers and I am still working with flesh-and-blood-and-hormone people who have their stories that they will or will not want to share. I will still work with people who have different levels of joy and pain and anger and apathy.
Tomorrow, the countdown will shift. Not because I will strip away another number, but because I will watch my students walk out my door one last time, most of whom will not return until the end of next week. And, even then, they will not mount the stairs to come back to my classroom. They will stay in the auditorium where I will stand on the stage and practice reading their names.
But I have one more surprise waiting, one more way for me to show my students the mother-teacher-love that I have. I won’t write about it here, not today. Too many of my students read my blog and I need to give them this last gift without they’re waiting for it or expecting it.
I think I’ve said this before. Oh well, I’m going to say it again. Teaching is like pulling my heart from my chest and laying it out for the world to see. When I teach literature, it is generally because I love the work of literature that I am teaching. But, most of all, the students that I teach, they are what is most precious to me.
And they’re departure, as much as it is wonderful and normal and grand still opens a tiny hole that will scab and close over. But the tiny scar that is there will always be a reminder of the wonderful people who engendered it.
Once more, guys.
Love you. Mean it.