I have five more days left with my students. Five more days. Teachers, myself included, are definitely guilty of beginning a daily countdown when the standardized testing ends and the finish to the year is clearly in sight. Personally, I consider 20 days to be my “clearly in sight”.
When the final bell rings in the afternoon on Friday, I will have completed my 6th year as a teacher, which ties my record for the longest I’ve done a job since college. As the end of the year nears, I always find myself feeling like it all went by so fast. Not necessarily too fast, just fast. It feels like only yesterday that I was memorizing names and trying to attach them to faces. In early August, all of these 7th grade people in my room were essentially strangers. Now, I have relationships with most of them. I know what genre of books they like. We have inside jokes. I know which ones are going to rise to the challenge of a complex writing task and which ones are going to need some nudging and prodding to get started. I know who works best in small groups and who does better on their own. I know who’s going to want to read their journal entries out loud in front of the class. I know who I’m going to have to remind to have a seat when I enter the classroom. Bottom line: I know these kids. Teaching is all about relationships, and at this point in the year, those relationships are firmly in place. We will get a short break from one another this summer, and then I will see them again in the cafeteria and at the buses after school when my current students come back as 8th graders. But it won’t be the same. They won’t be MY students anymore. We will still have the relationships, but not the daily interactions that come so naturally between a teacher and his or her students.
At this time of the year, I also think often about the students that I still don’t know that well. For whatever reason, there are always a handful of kids that leave my class in May that I do not feel like I know beyond a surface level. Our interactions have been minimal. These students have come to my class each day this year, quietly completing the tasks and assignments that I’ve created. Maybe they are shy. Maybe these students don’t need me like some of the others because they have enough support at home. Maybe they don’t know how to ask for help or feedback. No matter the reason, the fact remains that I don’t have much of a relationship with these kids other than I hand them work, they do it and then they hand it back to me. I feel guilty about this. Why can’t I cultivate the same connection with this small group of students that I have with all my others? Do they feel the same way, or is this how they want it to be with all their teachers? As the year comes to a close, I hope that THESE students know that I care about them as people.
Technically, the year doesn’t officially end for my colleagues and I until the week after this one. We have three days of post planning to finalize grades and pack up our rooms, but it’s not the same as when the kids are there. The halls are too quiet. The rooms empty. There aren’t any books or projects on the horizon. I have SO MANY micro-conversations on a daily basis with scores of students as well as coworkers, so when all of that interaction comes to a sudden halt it is palpable. Days go by slower. I find myself noticing my newfound solitude. These are both good things. Summer offers the flexibility to catch up on sleep, read more and travel. I spend more time with my significant other (she is also a teacher).
But when July begins to wind down, I’m ready for school. I’m eager to meet my new crop of students so I can learn as much as I can about them so that they can learn as much as they can from me.