This happens every year. I’m not quite sure how it sneaks up on me every time. I think it’s the busyness of paperwork, the excitement of summer break fast approaching, the craziness of state testing and waiting for the results, the avoidance of heartbreak.
In August, when I return, I always wonder a little bit how I will love these children like I love the kiddos from my previous class…which is ridiculous, because absolutely EVERY year I fall madly in-love with my students – and I never fall out of love with any of them. Which is why the end of May and the beginning of June is so painful for me.
The irony is that there’s so much “stuff” – otherwise known as objectives – we have to cram into our kiddos heads all year. Deadlines to meet, assessments (so flippin’ many assessments) to administer, lessons to make exciting and interesting, and I’m all over that. I take my responsibilities very seriously. I need to know that I’m doing all I can to prepare my precious kiddos for life and more importantly, I need to know that I’m instilling a deep love for learning in every precious baby. So, much to my amazement and exhaustion, we get it all done. The last few weeks arrive after we’ve worked really hard to learn all we need to learn for the better part of ten months. We have a little wiggle room now. We can do the fun stuff that went with the lessons earlier this year, but that we just didn’t have time to do because of the ever present deadlines.
And then Memorial Day weekend comes and goes, and I try to figure out how I’m going to get it all done – The Fun Stuff: the memory books, the room clean-up, the paperwork, the party, the awards, the report cards, the entire check-out list and more are all looming, but all I really want to do is sit on the carpet with my kiddos and read books and listen to them share their thoughts, share their hearts.
Last Friday one of my especially precocious boys walked up to me and said, “Mrs. Ojeda, I love you! I’m really gonna miss you this summer. When I’m in 2nd grade, can I come and see you here, in our classroom? I don’t really want to be in someone else’s class.”
I told him he better come and see me. I told him he would ALWAYS be welcome here, and then I assured him he would come to love his teacher just like he loves me and that she would love him just as much as I do. I did this all while not allowing myself to tell all of my babies how much I will miss them and worry about them and wonder if I’ll ever be able to love my kiddos next year like I love them.
Yesterday, I asked them to try to remember all of the things we did that they LOVED this year – all the way back to the first day of school. They called out, “Jitter Juice!” and “Solar S’mores!” “Rainbow windsocks!” “Silly dancing with sillier hats!” “Homework parties – Rootbeer floats, movies, popcorn, pajamas…” “Sushi and Bubbles!” “Daily 5 Reading!” – Yes, several of them yelled this out with pure joy! “The Austin Zoo!” “The Hands-on Museum!” “All 27 Junie B. Jones books!! We Did It!!” … and so much more. We had so much fun reminiscing together. I told them how proud I am of all they learned this year and then I told them how thankful I am for all they’ve taught me. Naturally, they were shocked to find out they have taught me things, as well, so they asked what they’d taught me! I told Jasmine that she’s taught me how to be a truly kind and caring friend, and Knowledge & Kamya reminded me what amazing things can happen when you work hard and never give up. Isaac taught me that sometimes I need to remember my students are only 6 and 7 years old and what I say and how I say it is important. Ashlyn proved to me that it isn’t always how smart you are, but how motivated you are – and that is a HUGE part of my calling. Christopher showed me what a blessing someone can be when they offer to help others on the regular. Andrew reminded me what true childlike joy is and how sometimes, it makes you completely unable to control yourself or your actions for just a little bit and that it’s okay for me to just enjoy that and not try to subdue it or control it. Dylan taught me that actions speak much louder than words and meeting emotional needs comes first. Jackie taught me that a born leader can still cry like a baby and be fearful of the future. I could go on and on. My precious kiddos taught me more than I could list here. They humbled me, frustrated me, made me mad, brought me joy, challenged me, brought out my ugly pride and insecurities, made me spit out my drink, laughing and grew my heart, big…
Every group of kids I’ve ever taught has made me better – more humble, more aware that all the good stuff comes from Him. I can always see bits of my own children in them, my siblings, former students, or even myself, at times. Sometimes I feel like He’s giving me another chance because I’ve messed up so many times before and He wants me to get it right this time. I feel lucky that He’s letting me try again with the knowledge of my past screw-ups. That’s one of the good things about getting older, experience brings wisdom. Wisdom brings deeper love and humility. Deeper love brings heartbreak… and so, here I am, again.
The good stuff is that I loved them all well. I taught them a bunch, mostly to LOVE reading and writing and to be curious about EVERYTHING! – and it’s summer (!) and I’ll see them and hug them next year. The not so good stuff is I miss them and my heart is a little bit broken.
The good stuff list is WAY longer than the not so good list!
I find it ironic that I always share with them that I believe writing and reading are SO important for a bunch of reasons, but personally, I love to read when I need to move away from really sad or angry feelings and I love to write when I need to work through those same kind of feelings. I spent an hour reading Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerine’s, which is full of uplifting, real and sometimes hilarious stories (just what I needed), and now, I’m wrapping up this post.