April 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The school bulletin boards are now bare. Just a few days ago they were showcased in bright­ly colored pictures and filled with all sorts of Eng­lish and Hebrew writing. Teachers raced to­ward the finish line the last few days of school with meetings, returning notebooks and oth­er curriculum materials, and completing final lesson plans. Boxes and large black bags were distributed for those teachers moving to new rooms and for packing up. At end-of-the-year parties, students enthusiastically discussed the camps they’re going to over summer vacation and family vacation plans.

Is it just me who feels such mixed emotions about the end of another school year? Usual­ly, I just follow all the important end-of-the-year steps without asking that question of my teaching colleagues, but this time around I de­cided to reach out.

Yesterday, as I passed a teacher in the hall as she was removing staples from projects that were hanging on her bulletin board, I asked how she was feeling. She sighed and said, “To be honest, it’s hard to say goodbye, and I don’t like endings at all,” she confided.

In the cafeteria, as we were getting our lunch, I spoke to Talia, a third-grade teacher. She told me that her class had a party that day and it was very emotional because one of her students is making aliyah. Talia said, “I called him up to the front of the room and I presented a class card with everyone’s signature and I said how much we would miss him. I also told him that we understand that this is bittersweet because he’s sad to be leaving but happy to be going to Israel, and his eyes were tearing up.” As for Talia’s per­sonal feelings, “While I really need a vacation it’s bittersweet for me as well. For 10 months we form this close relationship with these kids as if they’re our own, and then school is over and they’re not ours anymore. So when I say goodbye to them on the last day of school, I find myself getting emotional too, especially for those kids who I know had a really great year, who did well in my class and might have overcome some chal­lenges.”

When I first started teaching several years ago, the last day of school was pain­ful. As Oprah Winfrey would famously say, “I’d go into the ugly cry,” with balled-up tis­sues to wipe my eyes and red runny nose. After all, I had spent a whole year with these children as they grew, learned how to read and write, and developed socially. I knew what made them tick, their special and not-so-special friends, their allergies, and a host of taboo foods. Thank goodness, over the years, I have improved and don’t enter the zone of “the ugly cry,” but still tend to get “fahklempt” when wishing my students a great summer and reminding them to con­tinue reading.

Before becoming a teacher, I was a human resources recruiter and there weren’t the same defined cycles or the strong emotional con­nections. In the field of education, however, there are clear parameters and cycles for the beginning, middle, and endings of each year along with report cards at each juncture.

Shira, another teacher said, “I’m look­ing forward to summer vacation. But, I find myself choking up as I’m saying goodbye. Then you realize how attached you’ve be­come to the students. Reflecting back on the first few days of school and seeing how much they’ve grown is so gratifying.”

Apparently, some of my students in my sec­ond grade advanced reading class were expe­riencing similar pangs. After finishing our last lesson today one of my students said, “I’m feel­ing a mixture of happy, sad, and proud be­cause I’m finished with second grade.” Another student chimed in, “I’m sad because I really like school and I’ll miss my friends and teachers.”

For one student there were absolutely no mixed feelings or looking back as he exclaimed, “Finally…vacation is here! On Thursday we’re heading to Her­shey Park! Then I’m going to sports day camp.”

When the students boarded the buses for the last time this year, they were exultant, busting out of school mode, and already on their way to summer vacation. There were some who turned around and waved to those of us who remained as the bus­es slowly drove up the hill and past the school. As I headed towards my room to finish the last-minute pack­ing details, the halls were terribly qui­et, echoing my footsteps. There was a surreal quality after the students left, almost too quiet.

Finally, we said good-bye to our col­leagues and wished one another a won­derful and restful summer. When it comes down to it, we are a village of educators. And now, I’ve just packed my last box, logged out, and brought all the summer planning materials into my car. I’m ready to start my own vacation.

Esther Kook is a Teaneck resident. She is a teacher, tu­tor, and freelance writer.

By Esther Kook

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles