Today marks the end of my fifth year of teaching. What is remarkable is that I’m going back next year for my sixth. Why is this remarkable? Statistics show that 50% of teachers leave the profession by their fifth year. I made it. I survived. That said, I’m uber-tired and I understand why some don’t go back. It takes a l0t out of you.
This has been an incredibly emotional and stressful week. My sleep has been poor– my body has been waking me up at ungodly hours in the morning, which is really ungodly, since my alarm is set for a time that is ungodly to most. When I don’t get enough sleep, I get a massive headache that spans my shoulders, my neck, my skull, and everything it contains. Then there’s the goodbyes.
Our music teacher is leaving us, and on Monday I went to see her choir students perform. In her group is one of my goofballs who I wanted to support. My doofus who is disruptive and weird in class had a SOLO while he was holding hands with a girl (all things I never thought possible). He looked proud and was professional. My thoughts included, “Who the hell is he?”, “Wow, he’s good!,” and “Why the hell doesn’t he act this way in my class?”. The rest of the show was amazing, too. They sang Broadway hits and ended with a medley from Phantom of the Opera. Pardon my language, but my only thought about the whole show was, “Holy shit!” They were good. The tears flowed when during the end all of the choir alumni who were in the audience flash-flooded to the stage to pay their former teacher their respect. The stage was full of current and past students letting her know how much she means to them. After the show I went backstage to find my doofus, and many of my former students were there and then I was showered with hugs. I found my doofus, congratulated him on his performance, and he, too, gave me a hug. The next day in class he was the most accommodating student ever. It turns out that I had to say good-bye to him also, since he will attend another school next year.
Then there’s my seniors. Yesterday was spent at graduation practice as rehearsed our roles and responsibilities. I volunteered to be a reader of names as the students went to get their diplomas. I had hoped to read one of my all-time favorite’s (aka. “niece”) name, but I still had many students who I adored names to read. The microphone was just a bit too tall, so I stood on my tip-toes to reach it. Looking at all of my kids getting ready for their big night made me teary. Then last night was the real deal. The stadium was packed with families with posters, signs, and cow-bells (which I have determined are just as annoying as wind chimes). Everyone was so excited. The kids smiled so brightly once they spotted their parents and family cheering them one. Their excitement was palpable. I read my names to the cheering crowd without screwing up too much. Afterwards we all congregated outside as students found their friends and teachers to take pictures with. I saw more former students and said goodbye to the graduates.
One of my students wrote me a touching note in my yearbook, but she had forgotten to give me a graduation picture of her. Somehow, she gave a photo to her cousin who hunted me down during the ceremony and managed to get the picture to me. Up until that point,I had had no idea how much I meant to her. I found her afterwards and she was in an emotional state. I tentatively went up to her and her family and she rushed toward me, gave me a hug, and sobbed into my shoulder. Out of all of my five years of teaching, I don’t think I’ve been moved by anything more. Tears still come to my eyes as I write this.
In this midst of all of this craziness and goodbyes, I still had essays to grade, scores to enter, a classroom that looked like a tornado hit it to clean up, and my sophomores who still needed my attention. It was all a bit too much. One of my sophomores who also loves ducks, but who wouldn’t speak even if you held a gun to her head (not that I tried), came up to me after school Wednesday with a package of three rubber ducks: a cheerleader duck, a princess duck, and a surfer duck (none of which I had). She said, “This is for you” and gave me a hug. Today I pointed out how they were now integrated into my duck collection and she uttered her next two words, “I noticed.” Then I graded their To Kill A Mockingbird projects, and all of them did really well. Normally there’s some crap in there, but this time everyone did a great job.
Today was a fog of cleaning up and trying to make sense of my room. I was, frankly, too tired to deal with it. I tossed a lot out, dusted some stuff, but my cupboards are a mess. Finally I said, “screw it” and left for summer break.
Now I am at home with my hubby. He has poured me a big glass of wine. And you know what? I deserve it.