The Joys and Sorrows of June.


I’m not teaching anymore, but I still feel the intense emotions of June. I remember 22 years of “last day of school” tears and celebrations. For teachers, that last day is a profoundly exhausting combination of delight and grief.

Every year, the nest would empty. Every year, the hugs got me through, and the promises of staying in touch helped me to let go.

Every year I cried my heart out all the way home, then threw myself into the pleasures of summer with a sense of accomplishment. Every year, every June, on every last day, this is what I wanted to say.

Dear kids,

Dear 24 funny, silly, confusing, demanding, charming, annoying, inspiring children who have been in my classroom for the past 180 days.

I love you.

I really love your silliness and the way that you got me to laugh out loud even when I was trying to read you the riot act. I’ll never forget the time one of you sat through an entire math lesson with a crown of leaves in your hair, just because you were having so much fun learning about the first Olympics. I’ll always laugh when I remember you all flipping origami frogs into the air when I turned my back.

You were so much fun!

Dear class of mine, I also love you so much for all of the ways you’ve matured and grown this year. I will always be touched and pleased when I remember your parents telling me, “My son said that in your class everyone always got along.” I’ll always be proud of the way all of you decided, on your own, that you should skip recess one day because you realized that you had been cruel to a classmate with invisible disabilities. I will forever be brought to tears as I remember you, the handsome, smart, funny, cool kids as you apologized to your classmate and asked him to be “captain” of your recess football team.

You gave me such hope for the future, back then; knowing that you are out there in the world gives me hope even today.

Dear, sweet fifth grade class,

I surely love you for the ways that you have made me stop and think.

Thanks for helping me to understand what I meant when I told you that we would all need to be able to work together. Thank you for teaching me that a group of people can be “colleagues” and “team mates” even if they aren’t actually friends.

Thank you for helping me to learn what it means to be my best self. You helped me to understand that it was OK, and more than OK, to tell you that I loved you. You helped me to accept the fact that children learn best from those they trust to love them. You taught me that I didn’t need to be aloof or emotionally protected or separate from you. All of you taught me that when I showed my weaknesses, it helped you to manage your own. You taught me that we are all a little scared, all a little overwhelmed, all afraid that “nobody will like me.”

It’s June. Our time together is coming to its inevitable final day.

What in the world will I do without you?

Dear beloved, exhausting kids,

I bet you don’t have any idea of just how hard this month is for teachers like me. You probably think we are happy about the end of another school year.

But you are wrong. I am not happy to be leaving you behind. I am not happy to be handing you off to an entirely new team of teachers.

Sure, those teachers are my colleagues and my friends, but that doesn’t matter. They are great teachers, wonderful people, kind and supportive adults….but whatevs. YOU are MINE. I have spent the past ten months dreaming about you, planning for you, talking about you and loving every little thing that makes you so special.

I am not happy about passing you on to the next teaching team. In my deepest, darkest, secret Momma/teacher heart, I worry that next year’s teacher won’t understand you the way that I do.

I mean. C’mon. Could any other teacher possibly be as excited as me about your fractions projects? I think not.

So.

Dear kids,

Dear unique, wonderful, lovely and loving group of kids,

I am not even a tiny bit happy about the fact that our short year together has come to an end.

June is not a happy month for loving and engaged teachers.

June means letting go, and trusting that other adults will love you as much as I do.

But I will open my arms and let you fly free, because that’s what all good nurturing adults must do. It may break our hearts, but it lets you move up and on and away, into the life that awaits you.

Dear parents of young children,

Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful kids with me. Thank you for trusting me to guide them through the scary world of fifth grade math and the scarier world of fifth grade social life.

Dear parents, thank you for telling me what you think. And thank you for asking me what I see as I look at your child.

It’s June. Thank you, dear trusting parents. Thank you for letting me love and guide and support your child for the past nine months. Without your trust, I could never have moved your child forward in all of these ways. You and I have been a great team this year; I will always be so grateful to you for letting me take on my role on that team.

It has been a long and challenging year. To be honest, they are all long and challenging. And every one of them is filled with the process of shaping friendships and creating a healthy educational community.

And now, as always, we find ourselves faced with the stresses of June and the inevitable goodbyes that come with every summer break.

As always, the best teachers are mourning the loss of this year’s special community of learners. As always, the ticking of the clock into summer fills our teachers with a sense of loss and sadness that people outside of public education cannot begin to understand.

It is June.

I hope that everyone who has ever been a student, everyone who has ever parented a student, everyone who has ever supported, taught and nurtured a student, will take this moment to look back in awe in all that has been accomplished in ten short months of life.

Being a teacher is a gift and a joy and blessing that I think only those in the trenches can fully understand.

So to every child and every parent, I say, “Happy summer! I will never forget you or our time together as a micro community. You have forever changed my life.”

4 thoughts on “The Joys and Sorrows of June.

  1. You say it beautifully, Karen!
    I still remember students I taught in the ’60s and the wonderful ESL adult students I taught in 2006-2007. So glad my grandboy Jack had you as his 5th grade teacher.
    You are a gem!

    Like

    • Awwww…..Thank you! Yesterday I was feeling very stressed and sad, and found myself rocking baby Max in my arms. I was suddenly reminded of the first time I met Jack; he was about 6 weeks old and Heather had to come in for a meeting. I was super stressed and settled into a rocking chair with Jack. All of my angst melted….I have loved that kid for a long time!! He is a gift to any teacher!

      Like

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