Day 180: I intentionally waited a while to write this post. This is because the last day of school felt so weird – so incomplete and unsatisfying – that I wanted to let it sit for a while.
Most of the last day was great. We had kids write letters to their teachers, thanking them for teaching them this year. We took kids to a local park and let them run through the sprinklers. We brought them back, gave them ice cream sandwiches, and got them to stop talking for long enough to say bye.
And with that, they were gone. Not just my kids, mind you – everyone. The school cleared out. Maybe 10 or so kids from other homerooms (out of 72) came to say bye, but for the most part, I didn’t get to see most of my students. By the time my room was empty and I could sprint outside to catch as many students as possible, only two sixth graders were waiting outside to be picked up. SG said, “Bye Mr. Adler, I’ll miss you,” and got up to give me a hug.
My first thought was, “Aww, thanks!” My second thought was, “Dammit, I wanted about 70 more of these!”
I spent the next hour moping around the halls. I remember this one commercial where the teachers excitedly bust out of the front door on the last day of school, even more ready for summer than the students. Bullshit. Upwards of 95 percent of my energy from September to June goes toward not only teaching, but also building relationships – making the connections that you can draw on to lead kids through challenges and toward meaningful academic and personal growth.
So, when those relationships end all at once, when you go from seeing these people you’ve cared about and invested in and given yourself to every day for 180 days suddenly leave you, many without saying goodbye? I think being a little mopey is warranted.
Over the next few days, however, I started to hear from my kids. MS visited school on Monday to finish his final, and stuck around to help me pack up my classroom. NL e-mailed me “hi,” and when I responded, she replied, “ewww that’s gross I didn’t think you’d answer.” RS invited me to a gymnastics meet. HG wrote to remind me she’s still mad I’m leaving the school.
Now that I am done with TFA, some part of me feels obliged to wax poetic – to reflect on how the experience changed me, and on what I’ve accomplished. To answer that feeling, in short: Yes, being a TFA corps member is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done. I am proud to have taught 200 students over two years, and to have taught them both science and what it means to build the traits of successful and admirable people.
However, having my kids friend me on Facebook, and receiving texts from RG about making avocado pudding, it is also 100 percent clear to me that I’m not living in a clean-cut movie universe. My kids and I didn’t conquer the world, and I’m not riding off into the sunset. I did my best to contribute to a community, to leave my students and my school better off for my presence and my energy. While I am proud of my contributions, and what I did for my students, I’m also not done yet. I’ll stay in touch. I’ll make sure IC is doing his work, and that AM is being respectful to her teachers. Eventually, I’ll see them graduate from high school, and joke that they wouldn’t be there without me.
In the meantime, I’m also going to take all of my energy, my dedication, and my immense bank of corny jokes, and I’m going to teach at a new school next year. Just like I’ve been doing for the past two years, I’ll do my best to teach children, and be a positive force in their lives.
Again: I’m not done yet. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and what I’ve led kids to achieve. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been in the lives of my students, and I’m grateful to those students for helping me grow as a person and as an educator. But I’ve got so much more to learn, and so much more I can do. I’ve got a few weeks ahead of me to relax, maybe even get in shape. And then it’ll be time to put on the stopwatch, deliver a silly pun or two, and resume my small part in making sure students get the education they need and deserve.