I knew today was going to be hard.
I'd been dreading it since about Christmastime, when the full weight of the love I had for my students settled in my heart.
The last day of school.
But as the countdown on my board slowly dwindled, I began to get almost sick to my stomach when I thought of how in just a few short days, these kids I had come to love so much would leave my life forever.
The time and energy I had invested in them. The care I had given them. The evenings I had stayed at school until 8:00 preparing for them. The sleepless nights I had spent worrying about them and praying for them. These are the ingredients of love--a love as strong as any I've known in my short life--and it didn't seem fair to me that I should spend nine months falling in love with these kids only to be cut off and forced to move on so abruptly. Like I could really begin three months of sun-bathing and relaxation without a care in the world about these kids that I had--for all my heart could tell--abandoned? Did they really think that was possible??
That's not how I operate, I told myself. I can't just pour myself into 150 lives every day for a year and then, one day, wave at them as they walk away and put them out of my mind forever. I can't just *move on* from these kids. Don't they understand the lasting imprint they've made on my heart?? Maybe I'm not meant for this teaching thing after all. Maybe it's one year and done--I've burnt out.
I also couldn't imagine not having influence on them any more. They looked up to me--cared about me. We had built relationships. I had turned kids around. I had inspired them. I had made a difference in their lives. How could I let these kids go? Who would look out for them over the summer? What if their teachers next year don't understand them like I do? Or, worse, what if they love their teachers so much next year, that they forget about me? I was going to be a mess, I thought.
So, yeah. I had been dreading today.
But then today came.
And today was beautiful. :)
We gave each other letters.
We ate candy.
We took selfies.
We took LOTS of selfies.
We laughed some more.
And then we said goodbye.
And...I felt this incredible sense of peace. I wasn't abandoning these kids. I wasn't being cut off. I was letting them go....because they needed to. Because they were ready. And because I was ready.
Yes, I had invested my entire self into them, and it had been so worth it. I had seen them grow. I remember the first week of school watching them walk through the door and thinking to myself, they're babies! Today, I smiled as I looked around my room and noticed young men and women. I thought about all the crazy stuff we'd been through together, how we had stuck by each other even through our bad days, how they had given me a purpose in life when I felt meaningless.
And what beautiful contentedness in knowing that I had brought them there, to that point. That my hard work and love had paid off. That I would see them in the hall next year and we would share smiles, and maybe a high five or a hug. That I would see their names in the newspaper as the years go on, and read about all their accomplishments. That I would see them walk across the stage at graduation, and continue on to incredible adulthoods.
And as I said goodbye to my kids, and watched them walk out my classroom door for the last time with a "Have a good summer, Ms. Campbell!" shouted over their shoulder, I smiled, shouted, and waved goodbye back with a feeling of closure I never would have believed I'd have today. I'll never forget these kids--my first--and they will hold a special place in my heart for as long as I live. But I've got more love to give. :) And there are sixth graders who need me. :) And I'm ready for them. :)
Year one: CHECK.