Yesterday was the last day of school.
I obviously have mixed feelings about it.
Like any teacher, I'm beyond exhausted by this time of year, and the idea of summer days spent reading for fun and not grading papers sounds too good to be true. I have adventures, both personal and professional, planned. I have books to read and cats to pet.
But the last day is also gut wrenching for me. I am rarely able to say goodbye to my 8th graders and give them final words of wisdom without choking up at least a few times. Some goodbyes are so difficult to say, that by the time I realize I haven't officially said them, the kids are already long gone. I go home at night on the last day with students, and my husband knows it will be a quiet, somber night. Once he's reassured that I'm not mad at him, he knows to leave me alone. The night of my last day with students is not a time for celebration. I am grieving. Yes, I will get over it, but for the first few days, I will mourn in silence, and no amount of reading, writing, or running (my three favorite vices) can push down the overwhelming loss.
Having a fantastic day yesterday certainly didn't help.
We had a full day of school, which is unusual for the last day. Our principal and counselor wanted the afternoon to be fun; something to send our students off in style. They decided we would have the last dance of the year during the day so everyone could be a part of it.
I admit that I was vocally opposed to this idea. I hate middle school dances, and I didn't like the idea of forcing all our students to attend if they didn't want to. So I volunteered to be one of the teachers who stayed in the library and played games with kids who didn't want to attend the dance, or who wanted to take breaks from it.
One of the best decisions I've ever made.
I ended up playing Uno with a group of eighth grade boys for over an hour. We started with a small crew, and more joined along the way. There was trash talking and Macbeth-quoting, mild cheating and alliance-building.
It was hands-down the best card game I've ever played in my life. It might go down as one of my favorite memories of life.
Surrounded by books, with the bass of the dance thumping in from down the hall, we were in our own world. I felt like I was part of a classic old-man poker game of the kind a woman is rarely invited to take part in. I am always very clear with my students that I am their teacher and not their friend, but I'd be lying if I didn't think about how amazing it would be to see these boys ten years from now, playing the same game with the same balance of sarcasm and joy. They are so brilliant and witty; so good at walking up to the line of inappropriateness without crossing it. I've had plenty of interactions with adults that aren't nearly as fun or mentally engaging.
I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to some of the people I have cared about so much. I hope they loved it as much as I did.
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.