Soon after the halls have cleared on the last day of the year and all of the students lingering outside had found their way home, I walked back to my classroom–noticing the amount of work left for me to do. Deadlines were looming–even though school just ended. My classroom had to be completely packed up and ready to move in one day. Why had I not spent yesterday packing while the students worked on a worksheet or watched a movie? Why had I insisted on spending every last minute with them? My answer: because they are the reason that I teach.
For this past year, we have been a family. After the last school bell rings on that last day, the students disperse, never to be gathered in one room with me again. Most will return to the same school next year for 8th grade. We’ll pass each other in the hallways and at lunch, but it won’t be the same. The daily connection we shared will be stretched to include new teachers for them and new students for me. Oh, I’ll still love them like my own kids, and they’ll still remember how magical 7th grade science was (I hope), but they will have moved on and so will I.
That’s why I had to make our last days together filled with wonder, awe, and inspiration as opposed to movies and worksheets. As I sought ways to say to my students what I really felt at the closing of the year, I struggled. I knew that I didn’t just want to babble on about how awesome they were and how much I’d miss them (although that was and continues to be the truth). So, I dug into my bag of books and pulled out a true gem that shared exactly what I wanted to say–Of Thee I Sing by President Obama. It was crafted as a letter to his daughters, but it conveyed the deep sense of importance that I know resides in each of my students.
Next year, will they remember the story line of that book? Probably not. Will they remember the science content that we worked so hard to investigate and learn? Probably not. In the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Ages hence, I hope that my students will still look back on 7th grade science fondly–remembering feelings of success, perseverance, and love.