Tag Archives: Good-bye

I’ve Got my Ticket for the Long Way ‘Round

I held it together when I read them my goodbye letter with each of their names remembered, I did not cry when I hugged them goodbye, I kept the tears in when I sat in my empty classroom, desks and chairs stacked, our two years in time gone. I even smiled when teacher after teacher asked me if I was alright at our end-of-year barbecue. Apparently, I’m not the only one who dreads goodbyes.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, I felt antsy. I could not put my finger on it. There is always the anxiety of not wasting a single second, because this too shall pass, but that wasn’t quite it. I woke up at 7AM wide awake, worked on my book, surfed the internet, did yoga, cleaned the house, and went on a date with my husband to a fancy restaurant, a perfect start to six weeks of freedom. Time passed slowly as it does in the beginning of a long break, each day accelerates a little more.

When we got home and snuggled up for a British show akin to House Hunters International, my husband brought over his iPad and pressed play. As the words washed over me, I could not hold back anymore. The tears flowed down my cheeks, a few sobs escaped, and my poor husband looked back at me like he had no idea what he had done. A group of girls in my class surprised us one day with this song at morning meeting, complete with cups thumping in rhythm against the desks and the a capella beauty of child voices singing in unison.

The words of their song did not hit me then. But now, they’re right. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone, the way they talk, the way they walk, I’m going to miss them when they’re gone. I keep telling myself it will be easier next time, that I won’t bond as much as I did with these first kids I kept for two whole years. Some teachers tell me it gets easier, some tell me they cry every single time. Who knows where I will fall, all I know is I managed to love these kids an awful lot. I’m not going to dwell, but last night it felt good to let it all out.

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Maybe Goodbye Has to be Ugly Sometimes

My head hurts. This week has been painful. Many of my students aren’t themselves, easily agitated, disrespectful, messy. Monday morning I almost called in sick because I wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t want to give up a single day of our last three weeks together. Today I’m singing a different tune. I love them but I’m ready for a break, even if that break means saying good-bye after our two years as a classroom family.

At first I felt really disappointed by the changing climate in our classroom. I blamed hormones, the weather, myself. Then I got to thinking. Maybe for some kids, this is how good-bye works. It’s easier to leave when you’re angry or things aren’t quite right, than when everything is routine, normal, happy. Chaos as a distraction. Rebellion as the final act of separation. I think I’m getting a tiny taste of what it is like to raise teenagers.

The time has come for me to let go. I will miss them, but I won’t miss this.

To be fair, good moments have punctuated the week as well. Today as I sat alone and watched them play on our field trip to Sac State, I felt at peace.

To be fair, good moments have punctuated the week as well. Today as I sat alone and watched them play on our field trip to Sac State, I felt both distant and at peace.

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Week 23: Bittersweet Hello

This afternoon, as I cleaned up the carnage of my back table, the office called my room through the intercom. Two boys were there to see me. My brain stalled for a minute. I asked for their names to be repeated through the crackly speaker. The second time I heard loud and clear. One of my students from last year was back to say hello.

My heart skipped a beat.

I keep my kids for two years and he disappeared over summer, rumored to have moved to the South, Alabama, or Georgia, or somewhere. In a room full of rowdy boys, he was a leader, calm, well-spoken, polite. Whenever he was in trouble, he would apologize kindly, usually ending his statement by calling me ma’am. His test scores were among the highest in the school.

Today he showed up in my room, a shy smile, a sideways hug. His eyes traced the walls of our classroom, the desks new, everything else so very much the same. I told him we missed him. I told him we would bring in a 31st desk just for him. And, I meant it. I don’t want 31 students, but I would if the 31st was this kid. His eyes filled up with tears as we talked. Not a single one spilled down his cheek, but they were there, ready to pour out.

When he left, I cried. Another teacher was in my room. She teared up with me. He never moved to Georgia, or Alabama, or the like. He still lives in Sacramento, just too far to make it to our school. A lot of students travel a distance to reach our doors. For some families, it ends up being too much. I understand, but my heart still breaks. His eyes told me his did too.

About twenty minutes after he left, I wandered back into the hallways to see if I could catch him again. With many brothers, I thought maybe they’d still be in someone else’s classroom. I found them in the hallway, his mom and siblings headed my direction. I asked him if he wanted us to write him. He smiled wide. I wrote down his address. His mom promised he’d write back.

I know I will say good-bye to every kid I teach, but some disappear without a word. I’ve had students return to Mexico overnight, or so the stories go. At the beginning of the school year, I was certain this student would be back. I told the other teachers not to worry, that I had talked to their mom, that she had said they’d be there.¬†Eventually I gave up. Another student took his spot, the year went on.

His reappearance today was an unexpected gift, so bittersweet. It was nice to say good-bye this time. I wished I could pick up his house and put it across the street from our school. But then I let him go. I reminded myself that I love all my kids, that he opened up a space for someone new, someone that maybe needed it more than he did. That’s the good part. I know deep down that he’ll be fine, whether he misses us or not.

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