The end of the school year can be stressful and emotionally draining. Between the sleepless nights spent reviewing the mental “to do” lists and the sadness of saying goodbye to your students, not to mention completing report cards, you’re just tired. Add to that packing up every single book, paper, crayon, and manipulative you own, and you’re just about ready for the funny farm by the school year’s end.
Several years ago, I did the sleepless nights, the good-byes, and packed up my whole classroom (for the third time in three years), but I didn’t shed a tear. Now that’s strange for me, I thought, but I was so excited about my sister visiting the next day that I didn’t let it bother me.
On her first day in town, we went straight to the chiropractor. Going there is like a going to a spa, and it just made sense to “get our heads on straight” at the outset of her stay. On this particular morning, my chiropractor was running a bit late with another patient, so we took a seat in the lobby and began chatting away. With time we both noticed the Rachel Ray Show was on the television and in this episode she was revealing the winner of her Dream Kitchen Contest! The lucky winner was a young entrepreneur who had started her own cooking business. She was a 12-year-old cupcake-baking girl, and she won some amazing new kitchen appliances. As we watched a moving video of her baking and decorating colorful cupcakes of all kinds, the background music swelled. As a new refrigerator and double oven were wheeled out onto the stage, tears of joy started streaming down . . . my face.
Oh . . . NO! I thought. Do not cry in the chiropractor’s office over a girl you don’t know who makes cupcakes and won a double oven! A lady sitting across the lobby glanced at me and shifted in her seat. One look told me of her discomfort at my innocent display of emotion. Had she never seen anyone cry at a Rachel Ray show before? Then my sister saw my tears and started laughing quietly. To help ease the tension, she said, “You know, for me it’s the Little House on the Prairie Christmas special when Mr. Edwards travels on foot for hours through a blizzard to bring Laura and Mary their gifts (tin cups of their very own).”
Soon I was thinking back to when we were children. We watched that show all the time. I said, “My favorite Little House episode is the one where Mrs. Ingalls teaches school for a while only to find that one of the older students is bullied because he doesn’t know how to read. She painstakingly works with him to help him learn to read. I think that very episode is the real reason I became a teacher.”
And then it happens. I come undone. In the chiropractor’s lobby. With my sister. And the lady who has shifted in her chair. RIVERS of tears (caused by the sleepless nights, the packing, and the goodbyes to twenty-eight students) are running down my face. And then memories of the past twenty years of teaching are flooding my mind. Tears are flowing uncontrollably, and I can do nothing but let them come.
Just then the chiropractor swings open the door, looks out in to the lobby, and calls my name. “Julie?” She does a double take after seeing me and asks, “Are you okay?”
Through the tears, I explain that all of the joy and sadness of my whole teaching career have come over me in an instant while watching the happy and well-deserving winner of the Dream Kitchen Contest on Rachel Ray. As I follow her into the next room, I see a patient lying on the traction table who is wondering, based on my crying, if there has been a catastrophic global event while she’s been getting her adjustment. I offer her a brief, reassuring explanation and hurry into Room Two where I try to convince the chiropractor that I am mentally stable, even though I have cried off all of my makeup in the waiting room.
I share this story because I want to thank you. Thank you for being the type of teacher who loves your students so much that on certain days, and especially at year’s end, you come undone with the love of them. Thank you for the sleepless nights, the Dr. Seuss celebrations, the trips to the library to find books for your reluctant readers, and for pleading for the right services for students you know need and deserve them. Thank you for staying late when you could have gone home early, for having difficult conversations with parents, and for creating a classroom where kids learn well. Thank you for giving students second, third, fourth, and in some cases fortieth chances, for making learning fun, and for having a sense of humor on the days when things just don’t go as planned. Thank you for rarely taking a bathroom break, for lending change to the student who “didn’t know there was tax at the book fair” and for listening to children retell the longest stories about what actually happened at recess. Thank you for designing amazing lessons, spending your own money to buy supplies and buying extras for the kids who don’t have their own. Thank you for teaching hard even on the days when it seems only a few students are listening, for coming up with crazy ways for students to retain information, and for attending endless meetings. Thank you for putting your heart and soul into your instruction and for believing the best about your students.
For all you do, you are appreciated and admired.