Friday, June 11, 2010


The last day of school always sees a few tears, but the last two years leaned more toward "See you in August, and have a great summer! Don't forget to do your homework!"

Now, it's goodbye. My kids, who have been mine for three years, are gone. I'm excited for them, because most of them are going to great high schools, and the ones who are going to the worse schools have had long talks with me about how they're going to succeed and make it through college.

You wouldn't believe the progress these kids made. Students like MQ, whose language barrier and learning disability combined to make school miserable. I could barely understand what she read or wrote when she first came, but we worked together and she surrounded herself with a core group of friends who tutored her on every homework assignment. MQ stayed after school, asked questions during lunch, and studiously listened and took notes during every lecture. She wasn't the one chatting through collaborative assignments; instead, she was asking me and her friends for help. The result? Her last exhibition research project, on Rube-Goldberg machines, was interesting and informative. This kid, who had so much working against her, partnered with a friend who would help her without doing the work for her, asked questions, stayed on track with her research even when it got difficult, and when I asked her to memorize the types of machines and show them in the Rube-Goldberg contraptions, she did it, even though that sort of memorization is so difficult for her. MQ has her work cut out for her in high school, but I'm completely confident that she'll make it.

Another success story is Eva. (Have I used that alias before? This is a different student.) When she came in, Eva was one of the top students, but she did everything by the book and froze up when we asked her to think for herself. In her 7th grade year, we finally had it out when she turned in another insipid essay, this time a research report about Japan. I gave it back to her with a rather pointed note about not wanting an encyclopedia entry, and she rose to the occasion. Eva took that paper, poured her heart on it, and brought back a revision that showed how much she loved and admired the civilization. Early this year, as part of the group that visited the super-dooper private high school, Eva had to stand up and give an impromptu speech to a group of strangers. This shy little mouse did it, and realized how much worth and potential she had. Throughout the year, she spoke up more and more, and, with her best friend (whom I also love dearly), gave an inspiring, tear-inducing valedictorian speech at last night's promotion ceremony. Eva always had the brains, the motivation, the desire for excellence, and now she has found her voice. Watch out for this one!

They're going on to bigger and better things, but it's the end of an era for me. The staff has come to a consensus that this is the best class we've ever had. The kids are nice, caring, and even the ones who have their issues with school are still pleasant. I had the pleasure of working with a consistent, capable team, and 2 of the 3 years saw fantastic principals.

Watching this year end is tearing my heart out just a little. No, a lot. Before I came to this school, I was ready to quit teaching. The first two years at soul-sucking bigschool almost killed me, and even the first year here left me a little dubious. The last three years have been anything but easy, but I've wrapped my entire life around these kids, and now they're gone. Will I grow to love the next class as much? Will it seem just a little less shiny? This hurts. I'm grieving. Can I put myself through this again?