I armed myself with a few distractions - Flash, Eli and snacks accompanied me to the classroom today not just to tickle the fancy of 24 of the cutest 3rd graders a teacher could ever be blessed with, but to try to help stave off the tears. Just in case, I also went with a new box of tissues.
The day was chaos at best. Passing out the last of the year's papers, signing shirts, yearbooks and classroom souvenirs, opening gifts and reassuring the soft-hearted like myself, and final rounds of our favorite class games were enough to keep the half-day full, but we also helped move books out of our room to the teacher moving to third grade, and switched desks with the class next door for much the same reason. If ever I was aware of the feeling of being ushered out, it was today.
My classroom half dismantled already, the only joy and life in the room was in the faces of my kids. And over the past 180 days that's exactly what they have become - my kids. We have laughed, and cried, struggled and rejoiced, learned and grown together this year and 180 days later, we feel much like family.
I packed the last few moments with constant motion and activity, dodging and averting the tears waiting to fall on more than just my face, but even as we moved from packing up, to the group hug, to the sounds of the bell, I knew it was only a matter of time. The kids poured out of the room for the most part, the few that always linger for hugs lingered a little longer until there were just two of us left in the room. She was worried about a sweatshirt left behind by a friend but when I caught her eyes, they were brimming with tears. I heard her mom, waiting just outside my door, say, "It's going to be okay..." and that's when I just lost it. We hugged and I consoled and I promised her next year would be just fine hiding my own uncertainty about what next year will bring.
I still had to make my way out to the busses for the tradional wave-off, and I held it back again while other teachers cheered as the busses pulled out. Eli, Flash and I walked back to my classroom where I let the tears just roll.
180 days isn't enough to teach the kids all the math, all the reading, all the science, handwriting, history and grammar as the curriculum dictates. It isn't long enough to balance all the assessments with fun projects. It isn't long enough to move my low readers up to benchmark no matter how hard we both try. But it is plenty long enough to get attached. It is long enough to come to adore these little beings and all that they bring to the classroom. It is long enough to worry and stress about more than just their academics, to wonder if one will end up moving to live with his dad and if another will ever see his mom again.
It would have been at least a bit easier if I were staying in the building and could see my B.U.G.S. from time to time as they passed in the hall, or out at recess, but my move to first means a move of buildings and while it is only next door, it is rare that I will be able to see the kids I have grown so fond of this year.
180 days full of love, laughter, learning and joy.
One day full of heartbreak.