We all feel stressed and anxious, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Spring is in the air and kids, parents and teachers alike are counting down the days until summer holidays. But you may be surprised to learn that most teachers don’t wait with bated breath for the last day of school just so we can kick off our sensible shoes and embroidered cardigans and slip into flip-flops, muumuus and endless cocktail hours for the next two months. Really!
I have had a number of conversations recently with my colleagues about these admittedly frantic six (or so) weeks before the end of another school year. The consensus is that we all feel stressed and anxious, but not for the reasons you might expect. It’s true: many of us look at the calendar with dismay and think, “so much more to learn…so little time!” and there is of course the very big and equally important task of writing report cards that accurately reflect the strengths, opportunities for growth and overall personalities of the children in our care as we prepare to send them off into the classroom of another.
But there’s another element to the ambivalent feelings we teachers have as the end of the academic year draws nigh: loss. I feel it quite profoundly every year – the sense that I’m losing 25-odd children I’ve come to know and love, and the knowledge of how much I will miss them come September.
It’s a different kind of distance when you encounter former students in the hallways at school: they’re full of anticipation and excitement for their new adventures in the next grade, they’re busy getting to know their new teacher and figuring out where they fit in the social order of their new homeroom. They’re courteous and friendly to be sure, but as you stop them and call them by name and ask, “how was your summer?” you know that they really don’t have all that much time for you anymore.
To paraphrase Dr. Seuss: they have brains in their heads, they have feet in their shoes. They can steer themselves any direction they choose. Their mountains are waiting. Today is their day. It’s time to get on their way.
The days are busy and the tasks are many but the time is bittersweet.
And that way is inevitably and inexorably away from last year’s teacher. Which is all well and good and certainly the proper order of things. They’re young and their sights are quite rightly set roundly on their futures. They should move with purpose and enthusiasm towards the new adventures and challenges life (and school) has in store for them.
Still. It’s a loss. We teachers are older and more experienced than our students (no matter whether they’re graduating from Kindergarten or Grade Twelve), and we feel the tug of the past as well as the draw of the future as we get ready to move into another cycle of letting go and preparing to forge fresh bonds with a fresh group of children. And this time of year, at the close of May and throughout June, the knowledge that these are my last few weeks with these children gets more and more urgent. The days are busy and the tasks are many but the time is bittersweet.
So: when your children come racing out those school doors (or off the bus or wherever) on the last day of school; as they cheer with joy at their freedom for another summer; remember that somewhere there is a teacher sending them off with a tear in his or her eye…wishing them every joy and success life has to offer…and missing them already.