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Teacher’s Good-bye

Title – Teacher’s Good-bye

By – Mary Ann Lana

    The school year is winding down. Progress reports are finished, printed, and ready to be stuffed. Portfolios are updated with writing samples, reading assessments, and attendance records. Each day I pull a few more class-made posters off the walls and pass them out to eager hands. The gifts have been rolling in too: gift certificates for dinner, all kinds of candy, hand-written thank you cards, autographed dogs, and slightly-used stuffed animals. This can only mean one thing.

    The last day of school is approaching. On my list of things I hate, right up there with redundant paperwork, is saying good-bye. Every year it’s the same. A couple dozen kids or so walk through the door in September into my fifth grade classroom for the first time. We spend about a year learning, laughing, growing… even dancing. We become intertwined in each other’s lives. They know me, my kids, my husband. They know my dogs’ names, my cats’ names, and that my son got a turtle for his birthday. I know their biggest fears, their most embarrassing moments, and their parents’ first names. I know many of their phone numbers by heart. I know what sports they play and who their favorite bands are. I know their favorite elementary school memories. But since the first day of school, this day has been coming. It is no surprise.

    The day will go like this: A mass clean out of bins and cubbies will commence around 9:00 a.m. The radio will blare. To the untrained eye it will look nothing less than chaotic. As students leaf through once-lost papers to see what’s worth saving, stories and chatter about the past ten months will flow. All of the missing game pieces will surface. Signed field trip permission slips from November will be turned in. I will sit back and take it all in. I will watch their faces and listen to their laughs. I will graciously receive art projects they don’t feel like carrying home, and will be asked no less than 80 times, “Do we still need this?” as various items are presented to me. This will last for about an hour or so, at which time we’ll pull out yearbooks.

    The yearbook signing will take us up through recess. I’ll write a message in each one expressing what I couldn’t express in their progress reports. They’ll read my notes immediately and show each other what I wrote. They’ll bring their yearbooks to the playground and read them some more. This is the last recess I will think, and likely say aloud. It’s their last visit to the playground as elementary school children. The next time they see it they’ll say, “It looks so small!” Today they’ll just play. And they’ll ask me to play with them; of course, I’ll say. I will totally hog the swing.

    We’ll head in for lunch. Pizza and pop will arrive around 12:00. After the pizza, another mass clean up: orange soda and pizza sauce this time. Following this we’ll finish up a game of kickball started earlier this week against the class next door. We’re getting slammed out there, but it’s a blast, so we don’t care. We still taunt them about our impending comeback.

    At 2:00, we’ll head out to what we call our Newberry Tree. This was our special spot named by us after the Newberry Medal for children’s literature. We do a project with these award-winning books every year and this tree provides the shade in which we sit to read our books. It’s our spot. We’ll return this time not to read, but to share memories. My stomach will start to flop and a lump in my throat will present itself as dismissal time draws closer and closer.

    At half-past 2:00, we’ll head inside. We’ll be loud. We’ll poke our heads into doorways of past teachers and wave good-bye. Teachers will hear us coming and wait for us at their doors for hugs and high fives. I’ll be smiling while biting my lip, and blinking fast to squash some tears.

    At 2:45, we’ll be all packed up. We’ll assemble on the rug where I will attempt an “I love you guys” speech that will end with my blowing my nose and wiping smeared mascara onto a crumbly school-quality tissue. The kids will be crying; even the guys. There is joy in their tears; this is an exciting time for them. Their first big moment – a true milestone.

    The bell rings, but we wait. All of the fifth grade classes in our school, by tradition, wait for a special announcement for their last dismissal. I put my sunglasses on regardless of the weather, grab some tissues, and wait.

    At last the announcement comes, and we begin the journey down the hall for the last time. Our class, along with the three others, heads to the main entrance. We emerge under an arch of balloons to an awaiting crowd of hundreds. The entire school is there, wrapped around the bus loop, cheering and applauding for the fifth graders. Parents are there with flowers and video cameras. The principal is announcing classes over the bullhorn as they pour out of the building; you can hardly hear him over the crowd. The fifth graders board the buses, followed by their younger classmates. When the last child has climbed aboard, the buses circle the loop again and again while blaring their horns. Students wave and scream out the windows to their teachers on the sidewalk. We all wave back and blow kisses.

    The buses finally leave the loop and head down the road. The teachers head back inside to gather up their things and do some last minute filing before going to the staff picnic. I return to my classroom too, which now has a gaunt, lonely appearance. I blow my nose on the sandpaper grit facial tissue one more time. As I stand looking sadly around at the nothingness, there’s a knock on my door. It’s a fourth grade teacher, and he’s smiling. In his arms, a large bundle of thick manila folders…



Mary Ann Lana

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