Tuesday, August 10, 2010

With the End in Sight...

If you're in any way connected to education, you're beginning to feel a simmering force field of energy around you, and you know it's coming: the First Day of School.

I've been noticing it for awhile; I once was a Year-Round Calendar teacher, and I know how it feels to get those little prickles of excitement well before now. And as I've written before, the First Day is the BEST day (which is why I capitalize it like a holiday!) Blogs this time of year will be full of First Day activities and tips, and teachers all around are anxious with expectations on this the Happy New Year of Teaching.

This year, as you hand out insurance forms and Free/Reduced Lunch applications, I hope you'll think about another exciting time of a school year - the Last Day of School. As you look at your freshly scrubbed darlings sitting quietly (which is a good thing because you don't really know their names yet), think about what they'll look like, who they'll be, on the last day of school.

Chances are they'll be worn down and weary, many who worked dilligently but still failed standardized tests, many who've endured life-changing circumstances in their home lives - separation, divorce, domestic abuse, some who haven't fit in this year and are hoping for better things ahead...

I've written about Jamie who began the school year as a sixth grader, giddy with excitement, happy as a bird as my mother-in-law used to say. Fast forward to the end - Jamie was sullen, even weepy at times, over his parents' separation and pending divorce. He acted out in an effort to get attention of any kind, even negative. I didn't let him down. There were just days when he would push my buttons, and I'd end up calling his dad. Most days I was a listener and an advice-giver. But some days he wore me to the brink of exhaustion.

Teachers get worn down, too...tired of working extra hours for less pay, tired of health insurance costing more, but covering less, and tired of hanging from the ceiling fan to teach standards to kids, some who still don't pass standardized tests.

Last week I was on a beach vacation. I rode my bike just by a marshy area beautiful with blue water and green marsh reflections. I wrote the following about one particular morning:

Oak Island Goodbye

The pelican
has a choreographed

The pattern
is not a chance
of wind and wing.

Instead he flaps
just inches
above the water
then glides
on that glassy surface
until gravity
persuades the wings
to move again.

I watch
through sea oats
and grassy marsh,
looking over
sun-dotted water
and then make a vow:

Once I’m back
to my racetrack life...
speeding in circles
and getting nowhere...

I’ll remember
this place
and that bird
and this moment.

I’ll hold it
and think yet again
to slow down
and glide.


I challenge you to cherish those First Day children all year long. On the last day, look at them again and assess what your impact has been on their lives. In between...when you're weary and they're pushing buttons, think of that day and remember the freshly scrubbed darlings of nine months ago. Hold them like that as long as you can...