One of the worst things about being a teacher, is letting your students go on the very last day. It is such a bittersweet thing. Part of me can’t wait, but part of me knows saying goodbye can be very emotional. It’s like there is an elephant in the room the entire day. The kids ask if they are going to see you next year. Some kids start to act out because they know their entire lives are going to be different in the summer. Some kids just want to hug you and enjoy the time they have left. Some kids could care less, and that’s okay.
There is something about the very last day that makes me vulnerable. On that day, I realize that what we have in that classroom, will never be again. It can’t ever be again. It shouldn’t ever be again. We must move on with life, and most adults understand that. As teachers, we know kids don’t always understand that. They learn as they go, but when you are a child’s first or second experience in school, they still have a hard time understanding that they will never be in the same room with the same teacher and kids ever again.
I am always happy to bring the year to a close, but on that last day, I don’t feel the happiness I feel in the weeks leading up to the end of the year. It never fails. I know that I am letting each and every one of my kids go. I watch them walk out the door like a parent would watch his/her own child drive away for college. Some kids will come back to say hello more often than some. Some kids that leave your room, you may never see again. But deep down, I know that our connection that we have in that very moment will never be the same. I have come to accept this is inevitable, but I am never fully prepared to say goodbye.
As the final bell rang, my students didn’t run out like some kids that were already outside. They didn’t go for their backpacks. I noticed one child just closing his eyes and purely enjoying the final seconds of being in “our” classroom. There was another student who just hung onto me and she gave me the biggest hug and although she said nothing, I could see so much gratitude in her face. As I fight back tears, I open the door, and off they go. Just like that.
Moments like this define us as teachers, and they are good reminders of the real reason we teach. For me, it’s not about the test scores, standards, or the mandated curriculum. We all know it’s not about the paycheck. It’s those relationships that we are able to create, even if some of them last only for a short while. We give back everyday. Our impact on children will not expire anytime soon.
I once heard a quote by Banksy. “They say we die twice – once when the last breath leaves our body and once when the last person we know says our name.” After hearing that, all I could think about was how amazing teachers are, and how our impact on people is infinite. Even after that last person we know says our name for the very last time. Although we are letting go of our students, we will never have to let go of the impact and difference we have made in their lives and the lives of so many others.