June lament


Dear fifth graders,

We have come to the part of the school year that I dislike the most.  We are finished with our tests, the math book has been put away, we are wrapping up our final art project.  The days are hot, the classroom is stuffy and our hearts and minds are at the beach.

Now is the time for us to say goodbye to our happy little community. I feel it every time I sit in meeting and hear your laughter.  My heart fills a little more each day with love and tenderness as I look at your so familiar faces. Where did this year go?

I know that you feel something, too, although I am sure that you don’t perceive it as sadness at your age.  I see it in the renewal of old conflicts and in the return of your insecurities. You are back to asking for my approval of your work, back to double checking where to hand in your homework, although that hasn’t changed since you arrived in September.  You are back to calling my name and needing a little touch or a little smile every time we line up to leave the room.

So, here we are.  Trying to find a way to let go of what has been a secure and predictable place for all of us. Trying to find a way to say “So long!”

Let me try to put this into words, here where no one will see or hear it.  I couldn’t say this to you directly; we would all be embarassed!

Kids of Room 303,

Thank you for trusting me this year.  Thank you for letting me push you a bit in directions that made you uncomfortable.  Peter, thank you for having the courage to write such beautiful poetry, even when you thought you were not a poet. Michael, thank you for opening up and letting your humor shine out, even though you were the “new kid” in the fall.  Leela, thank you for trusting me when I told you that you were a good writer, and for finally finding your voice in your work. 

Oh, Devon, my prickly friend, I will miss you so much! Please believe at least some of what I told you about the true meaning of strength.  You CAN learn to use your wit and your creativity to make yourself look tall and strong. Think about our conversations sometimes, will you?

Becky, Corinne, Rachel: trust your own judgment about your work!  If you like what you painted, wrote, drew, built, then it’s good enough! 

Miyah, thank you for showing me what it means to keep going in the face of every obstacle.  Mitch, thank you for daring to raise your hand, over and over, and for being the guy who was willing to say “This is just a guess, but…..”

Thank-you all for having the courage to challenge me when you thought I was wrong, and for never gloating when I was.  We learned so much together, and that is what makes a great classroom!  Thanks for the play, the Halloween costumes, the “Question Game” and the birthday surprise.

Please remember fifth grade with a smile.  Please remember how polite you were when he had our Royal Tea, and what a wonderful job you all did of taking care of our classroom!

You grew so much.  You are taller, you are stronger.  You willingly take on responsibilities and you take pride in a job well done. You hold the door for each other and you say “thank-you” when papers are handed out!

You are wonderful young people.  Being your teacher was an honor and a privilege.   I will miss you more than I can say!

So, one last time, “If you can hear my voice, clap once!”

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