A few weeks ago, my son’s teacher set up a drive through between the hours of 4-6 at his elementary school. The parents were able to stop by and pick up a bag put together by her. When I pulled up, there was a car in front of me, and I couldn’t help but notice the locked gate in front of the school. In her back seat she had brown grocery bags filled with materials for each of her 2nd graders. Every bag had a name written across the top.
I’m a teacher, too. We have all had to do something similar to prepare for a substitute teacher. We count out the copies we need for each kid on a daily basis, even. When I got home, I sat in my driveway and looked through the bag. There it was. Every single lesson laid out. Every subject separated by paper clips and dates. A huge zip lock filled with plastic coins for learning money, expo markers, sharpened pencils, yarn for estimating measurement. There was a letter to parents and a schedule. Then I pulled out a zip lock of skittles. There was a note:
“As you left my room each day I would hand you a skittle and say, ‘Have a good day!’ At the end of your ‘home school’ day have a skittle and say to yourself, ‘I did great today!'”
I just stared at it.
Then before I knew it, I was staring at it through blurry vision caused by my tears.
I didn’t know. I did not know that she did that for my child every day. I pick him up every single day, and not once did he mention that he received a skittle.
What a thoughtful sentiment.
All I could do is imagine her. I imagined her sat on her living room floor counting out 19 of every lesson that she planned to teach for literally the rest of the year.
My heart broke thinking of the classes I’ve had in the past, and the way I would mentally prepare myself for the inevitable “goodbye” right before summer.
The truth is, you’re never ‘ready’ to send off a group of kids. But you can stomach it, because you know that you did your part and they are moving on to learn more and to do greater. You know you’ve given them what they need to prepare them to go to the next level. You’ve meticulously planned and you compare their work from beginning to end, and you know that your job is done. And the only way that your job can be done is if they move on to the next grade, to the next teacher, to the next chapter. And let’s be honest- summer is sounding damn good after 9 months of blood, sweat, and tears.
The thing is- these teachers sent their kids away for spring break or for the weekend, and they didn’t know it was the last time they would have them all together. They said, “Have fun and be safe.” They didn’t get to the finish line, they didn’t get to finish their content, they didn’t get to write notes in year books, they didn’t get to give hugs, they didn’t get to say goodbye to that class.
Truthfully, it’s almost too much for me to bear.
The following weekend, I was using my extra quarantine time to organize all of the boxes I put in my garage when my mom died. I was looking through papers, and I found a report card. It was mine. I was so excited to see it! I was even more delighted to see my mom’s signature showing her approval for each “marking period.”
That’s what we used to call it, anyway.
Then I found a note from my 2nd grade teacher to my parents:
When I read it, I was in awe. It made me laugh and it made me cry. She knew me. How could that be? How could I have always been who I am now? And how did she know?
It just proved everything I know to be true about the profession that I love. It made me beam with pride. It made me think of all of the things that led me here, and how my 2nd grade teacher invested in me enough to know who I was as an individual. She knew about my strengths and weaknesses. She knew about my extroverted nature and willingness to help. She even called me, “Sam,” which is so emotional to me because that is so, so rare as I started to introduce myself as Samantha in high school.
I was so moved by it.
But then my heart made the connection between the ending of my second grade year and the ending of Jaxon’s 2nd grade year.
You see… my teacher got the “goodbye” moment. She got the chance to hug me and to write my parents and to end a chapter of her life that she holds so dear to this very day.
Yesterday when I got the news about school being closed through the school year, I texted Jaxon’s teacher.
“Just wanted to send my love about the schools being announced closed through the year.”
She called me.
We both sat there on the line.
It was completely silent. We couldn’t talk because of the lumps in our throats.
We couldn’t talk because of the understanding of what this news meant for her and for her class. We couldn’t talk because sometimes the right thing to do still hurts.
Then she said… “It’s just that I usually do a memory book for each of the kids to have…”
…and then in complete teacher fashion, she started brain storming ways that she could make it happen.
That’s what teachers do. They continue to make it happen for the kids.
If you’re reading this and you’re a parent and you’re struggling with home schooling and frustration and you’re in way over your head, all I can say is I’m with you.
But also, when the first bell rings and they have a class full of kids again, these teachers are going to make it happen like they always do.
If you’re a teacher and you’re trying to do it all with no closure and a broken heart, you are supported. There is no one else that can do what you do, and your value is more apparent than ever. These kids will have a memory that bonds them to you in a profound way. You still have the power to change lives and make your impact. Go do the impossible, and make it happen like you always do- and before you know it, you’ll have a class staring back at you and a new appreciation for the profession you love.