Today is the day. You play board games with your friends, and I am tasked with the challenge of a farewell letter. At the beginning of the year, when I wrote your names over and over, and tried to practice saying them, I had no idea of the vast landscape we were about to cover. I knew my curriculum. I knew what I was going to teach you, but had no idea what I would get in return.
On the first day, you were crying because you were scared, and I came and over to tell you that I was scared too, and would you come help me. You told me no one was going to read your newspaper, but then everyone wanted to write one. You barely spoke, and now you don’t stop talking. There was that day that I discovered your poetry, and raced to the cupboard to get you a special journal. You are going to be a writer. A doctor. An artist. A go-kart racer. A pilot. A soccer star. A professor.
I was a magician. In the beginning, you didn’t know that I peeked at your name tag, but looked at you and said your name, as if I knew. And I heard you say, “She knows my name!” You would stand in my way and want a hug, and I couldn’t walk in one direction without you stopping me. Now, when I come on the yard and you ask if you can help me, I’m thrilled, because you’ve become my personal secretary.
I know when I announce it’s time for Daily Five “Old School”, you scream with excitement, because you get to pick what to read, what to write, and what to work on…stories of mystery, drawing cartoons with purpose, writing lyrics. You have become the textbook. You blossomed, and you taught me what I needed to know to ignite your spark. Your Mom came to me crying. She told me that you have been in trouble every year. Except this one.
Those times we stopped class. To talk with a Native American tribe leader to explain what happened to Indian children during the Mission period. To watch Father Serra get canonized by The Pope. To watch The President talk. To talk with the man who made our Math Videos. To chat with our Canadian pen-pals. To use Google to chat with each other, to learn collaboration in real time.
Your Missions. Your inventions. Learning not to use the word “basically”. To use well instead of good. To care for each other’s feelings. Days when you begged, “Can we do SHARING day today?” You asked so much, that I actually had to set aside a weekly time for it, even though it’s not Common Core, and seemingly not academic.
There were so many good things.
But there were things I missed. And I’m sorry. That time when you didn’t have gel in your hair, or it wasn’t combed. I don’t know what happened that day, but I didn’t ask. I just gave you some extra time to fix your desk. When you wrote, “I don’t know what is life?” in your journal, I answered you by saying, “Sometimes I don’t know either.” I knew there was something going on in your 9 year old brain, but I didn’t find out. I just sat next to you.
I wish I had taken more time to sit down with you when you were fighting with your friends, but I knew you all would work it out. When you forgot your stuff at your Mom’s or Dad’s, I told you it was okay…that my boys had to learn that there’s one extra step when you live in two houses. I didn’t let you off the hook, but we figured out how to make it work. I’m sorry that you cried in that Math Lesson. I cried, too.
I’m sorry about that time around Christmas when our Twitter, Expert Chat, and Google was all shut down, and we had to use the textbooks. I know. It was awful. And thank you for trusting me that Homework wasn’t necessary. Okay. Those Spelling Tests I gave to you were to make you feel safe. You like memorizing. It’s not rigorous. But you wanted them. Multiplication Tables. Grammar.
It was those months that you taught me. That you still wanted to read and write and sing and play and that even though everything was shut down, we could still learn, and when I didn’t think I could do one more day, you showed up with your smiles and hugs and, can we please read to you today. It was then that my Grinchy heart grew. That I realized we didn’t need all the exciting bells and whistles. That we just needed each other, and an open heart.
Okay, so this is getting long. Here’s what I want you to know. You must speak properly. Math matters. Even though everything is metrics, you have to know inches and feet. Trust me, you just do. You live in the best state in the nation. That the California map became alive when you put your family pictures there. That I wear a dress on Fridays because I want you to keep bringing it all week long, even on Friday. That your grades are just numbers at this point. And that even though I act like I know, sometimes I think I haven’t done enough, or that one more lesson would really help. Know that I’ve eaten my weight in your birthday donuts, but I wouldn’t dream of saying no to you.
It’s hard to say goodbye. You are sad, and you think you will miss me, but you will not. You will take all these lessons, and bring them with you, and to the world. And you will understand that love never dies. It just changes form and grows. You will love your next teacher, and all your new friends. You will be fine. I promise.
And someday when you remember this class, I will want you to know this…That you were wanted. Every single day.
Goodbye to the Class of 2024. I love you.