I have had a total of 3 remarkably atrocious days in my almost decade long teaching career. The kind where I cry my eyes out when I come home and feel like my heart will never be whole again. Two of those terrible days have come back to back this week.
Wednesday was 5th grade graduation/promotion. These students opened the school with me three years ago. We have been constant presences in each other’s lives for the last three years. Their classroom teachers have changed but I have been with them since third grade providing them special education support. I was with them through tears and frustrations; their lowest lows. I was also with them in their triumphs and successes; their highest highs. I also missed out on 9 precious weeks of growth, love, and encouragement. I didn’t really get to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye from a safe distance? Somehow a drive-by graduation ceremony doesn’t do justice to the journey we have been on together and the relationship we have built over years.
Yesterday, Thursday, was our school’s drive-by “Ta-Ta for Now Parade” in an effort to try and bring some closure for students and teachers for the school year. Again, from a safe distance, we tried to create some normalcy and closure for students and families. We made signs to try to convey how much we love, miss, and appreciate all our students and their resiliency in an impossible situation. But can a sign really convey all a teacher feels for their students? No. Parents and kids also cheered for us and reached through windows just to feel a little closer. I held back tears the entire time.
This isn’t how it is supposed to be. I don’t want to share my life with my students from a safe distance. I don’t want to have to say goodbye through an open car window. I don’t want to have to wonder about and grieve for the students that were not able to make it to graduation and the end of year parade.
A few months ago I wrote a post about the first day of school. There was a kindergartener that wouldn’t go home because she wanted to ride the bus and not get picked up by her mom. I had a student eat lunch in my room and cry because he made bad choices and gave his classroom teacher a hard time on day 1. It was a busy and sweltering day. No one could have predicted how this school year would end.
Yesterday was the last day of the school year and I have only seen my students’ faces in Zoom squares and from a distance during a couple drive-by parades. I haven’t seen some of them at all.
Honestly, I am not ok. I am grieving and weepy and a mess. This is not how the end of the school year is supposed to be. I feel robbed.