Tomorrow is the last day of school for students. It's always a hard day for me, as much as I hate to admit it. Like any teacher at this point in the year, I am ready for summer and the endless possibilities that float into my mind when I realize I will spend 2 1/2 months not grading papers. I'm ready to take a break from middle school kids and teacher griping and a stuffy room with no air conditioning and not enough air freshener in the world to cover 14-year-old body odor. I'm ready, but I'm also not, and that's what always makes the last day so hard.
It's my last day with my 8th graders. Every year when they come in as 7th graders I think that I can't possibly stand the immaturity and they'll never grow up and be less annoying. And every single year they prove me wrong. I get to know them and tolerate them and like them in that first year, but in the second year I really get to love them. I am so unbelievably lucky to be able to have the same students two years in a row, and it hurts to let them go. Knowing that tomorrow will be the last day I ever see some of them again creates an ache in my heart. I thought it would get easier the more years I taught. It hasn't. I still hate the feeling of knowing that even when I do see some of them again, it's never the same. We are never as close as we are in these last days of being teacher and students at the end of two years. Kids have poured their hearts out and shared their deepest secrets with me through their writing, and in a few short months we will be strangers. Does that ever stop hurting?
Added to tomorrow's difficulties is another goodbye: my colleague, co-teacher, and best friend will have his last day in our district. I've known he's moving since last fall, but it's the same as saying goodbye to 8th graders: Knowing something will hurt doesn't make it hurt any less. How do I say goodbye to one of the most important people in my life? How do I pretend our friendship will be the same when we won't see each other every day? I can't. It won't. We've climbed mountains and traveled the world together. We have shared students and classes, but we have also shared the past eight years of our lives.
(It takes a true best friend to do this in front of the entire school: he's the damsel in distress, I'm Wonder Woman.)
Great things will happen tomorrow, too. I will share my last words of advice with my 8th graders. I will send 7th graders off with the ability to start fresh next year regardless of what happened this year. I will give hugs and take pictures and laugh. And I will keep doing it every year on the last day of school. Because the year when it gets easy to say goodbye, when I don't care about my students or colleagues leaving, is the year when I don't want to be a teacher anymore.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.