Friday was the last day of school here for the kids. We teachers have another four paid days of work.
I was going to say that the end of the year is bittersweet, but that is not actually the case. It is more sweet-sweet. It is a very rewarding thing to teach a child (who comes knowing not one letter or sound and not one number) to read first grade books, write, spell, a variety of math skills, science and social studies facts and to get along in a classroom setting. This particular child is an amazingly resilient child who continues to overcome many difficulties that are beyond her control. I think our predictable routines were a blessing to her. She certainly flourished and I could not be more proud of her.
I act as Mama to 18 or more children each year. They slip and call me that sometimes; I smile as they laugh when they realize what they have said. In the course of a day, I mold their behavior, tie a dozen shoes, help with difficult zippers and snaps, bandage their scrapes, take their temperature, help with their nosebleeds and wet (and worse!) pants, remind them to flush and wash, open their impossible lunch packages, encourage them to try new foods and drink more water, and cheer for them when they accomplish new skills. Throughout the day I am teaching them to become more independent and confident, while they are picking up the required academics.
All of the students made lots of progress this year and all are ready for first grade. It is fun to look back at their work from different months to see how far they have come. Sometimes, I can see when it "clicked" for them. Hopefully, it has started to make sense by January. The late bloomers can be worrisome. I work hard with them. On the other end are the ones that come already reading second grade books. Keeping them progressing can be almost as challenging.
Our school serves children from PreK through fifth grade. On Thursday, I requested that the graduating fifth graders who had been in my kindergarten class come to my room for a quick picture. Fourteen kids--some as tall as I am---complied. That picture is a treasure for me.
I occasionally have kids from long ago come back to see me. Just last year I wrote about one who came in out of the blue and said he was in the community college now. He towered over me. Sadly, his picture was in the newspaper this week in the Crimestoppers section: there is a warrant for his arrest. It breaks my heart.
I get to know each child well and we care pretty deeply for each other. So that is the hard part. On Friday, at the end of the school day, I called each kindergartner up, told them I love them, we exchanged sweet hugs and I sent them on their way with one large lump in my throat.
It was a good year.