Letters From My Students

The students leaving Lincoln-Edison go on to middle school. This is their last year on our campus. For many of the students ours is the only school they have ever attended. Mr. K. worked with the kids the last several days of this school year helping them make thank you cards for the many teachers who have touched their lives. Here are excerpts from many of the cards I received:

You’re like the mom I never had. — Rosa G.

You are the coolest and greatest teacher. –Selena G.

If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have been almost smart. — Monique V.

You were always funny when I got to be with you, so I bet you were funny everyday. — Aldrae D.

I liked when you read to us every morning. I liked when you made us laugh. I liked that when we came hot from P.E. you sprayed us with water. —Joel G.

I will always remember you for the stories that you told. —Jerry M.

You taught me lots of things I needed to know. —Cynthia S.

You are fun. — Jacob F.

You were respectful when I barely camed here all scared. You were kind when my English was no so good. You helped me be better. — Jorge P.

I will always rember how funny you are. Thank you for teaching us in your funny way. — David P.

You are funny and silly. I really enjoy everything you do. But under everything else, I will always remember that you picked me for Student of the Month. — De’Brisha S.

I loved it when you taught me how to use my imagination to make a wonderful story. — Monica P.

You have encouraged me to write better stories and to check my writing for blunders in spelling and puncaution. — Broderick T.

I will always rember how to write in cursive. Thank you for buying us a pizza party. You rock! — Edward G.

Everyday you help me. When I am struggling you just know to come. I am surprised by what you’ve done. — Jimmy Z.

I learn much English from you. I so sorry I not can see you anymore. In my little English I know, I know that I is thankful of you. — Rosa H.

The Last Good-Bye

They arrived this morning freshly scrubbed, pressed and ironed, looking starched and nervous. It was strange and wonderful to see them out of uniform. The boys wore slacks and dress shirts. Several of them even donned ties. The girls wore swirling dresses. Curls bounced where pigtails had been. Tennis shoes gave way to high heels. I recognized them only by their giggles, which hadn’t changed.

Pictures were taken until all we could see were flashing blue dots dancing before our eyes. Phone numbers were passed around. Summer plans were discussed. “I will never forget you,” promises were exchanged.

Then came time for the ceremony. The fifth grade teachers lead the procession. As the students entered Dommanick Hall their parents stood and began to clap — and already my eyes filled with tears. A few deep breaths as we took our places on the stage, and I was fine. Then the principal started to speak.

The Principal and I started at Lincoln together. It was her first school. I was one of her first hires. We did not always see eye-to-eye and some of our encounters were rocky, but today when she stood to speak about her five wonderful years at Lincoln, we were in complete accord. She, too, is leaving this year. She announced her departure with a catch in her voice, and by the time she reached the part of her speech where she spoke of remembering the graduating class as kindergartners, half the room was crying with her — and a few tears escaped my control.

Because I am Ms. A, my class was presented first. I kept it together for hand-shaking and hugs. We made it through, each and everyone of us, without a mistake or a sniffle. I was proud of them. I was proud of me. Of course, there were 4 more classes to run the reception line gauntlet, but I had made it through the hardest part. I thought.

The other Ms. A’s students were next. Her class was as emotional as mine was stoic. They came up raining tears and made their teacher cry, which — in turn — choked me up. Then I looked out at my class and saw several of my girls sitting still and straight with silent tears rolling down their cheeks.

I remained standing, smiling proudly, shaking hands, but occasionally a tear slid down my cheek. Mr. K’s kids were emotional, too. Several of them launched themselves into my arms for hugs and tears. They did the same to the other teachers.

Ms. P., also leaving this year, started crying before her first student was called forward, so of course her kids were teary. More wet hugs. And then it was Mr. S’s turn. He hugged his students — each and every one –and offered each of them a personal comment about how much they’d meant to him. He cried. His kids cried. We exchanged wet hugs and I dripped a couple more tears.

Then, thankfully it was over. The future graduating class of 2014 was officially declared 6th graders and dismissed. That’s when my class lost it. They came then, throwing themselves into my arms, red-faced and crying, “I don’t want you to leave!”

I comforted them. I posed for endless pictures, chatted with parents and finally escaped to my room 40 minutes later. Through it all I spilled only a few more tears. Vanessa came to the door. She had left something behind. Could she pick it up? The answer was yes, of course.

She gathered her purse and a gift another child had given her. As she walked to the door, she thanked me for being her teacher and said it had been a wonderful year. At the threshold she paused and looked back. “I am not saying good-bye. My little sister still goes to this school, so I will see you next year.” Then our eyes met. She remembered I was leaving, burst into tears and rushed back for a hug. A couple more tears escaped me, but even then I did not really cry.

Shortly after Vanessa left, Jimmy came to the door. “Ms. A. I forgot my report card.” I gave it to him. He slowly folded it like a pamplet and stuffed it into his back pocket. Jimmy was my newest student. He was only with me this last quarter. He stood there for a long time with his head bent, then finally he looked up at me. “I never had a nice teacher before,” he said. “Thank you for liking me.” He fell into my arms and burst into tears.

And so did I.

Too Much

At the end of each work day I am so tired, it is all I can do to drag myself into the house and package the eBay products that sold during the day. Then I list a few more — and suddenly the evening is shot and I am crawling into bed for a few hours sleep before something jerks me awake.

Sunday afternoon I stumbled into my room for a nap. My head hurt. My eyes burned. I needed sleep.

I fell across my bed and collapsed. Fifteen minutes later I heard shouting and cursing. It sounded close. Too close. In my yard close. I rolled off the bed and looked out the window. Some dude was trying to climb the chain-link fence that surrounds my backyard. It’s a low fence and I think he would have made it easily if it weren’t for the two cops holding on to him.

They lifted the guy off the fence and spread him across the hood of my car. Lovely. They spent about an hour in my driveway before they tucked him in their car and rolled away. After that I couldn’t get to sleep. Every little noise would jerk me to wakefulness, and I had terrifying dreams.

Monday at school we had the annual 5th grade barbecue. Hot dogs, sodas, kickball and 104F heat. I drug my butt home to a huge number of sales — that’s not a complaint, but I had to work rather then rest — and no air conditioning. I called the office and they had someone here within 20 minutes. He looked at the swamp cooler and told me it was an easy fix. All it needed was a new drive belt. That was the good news. The bad news was, he didn’t have one and since it was after 5, he couldn’t get one until morning.

So, I suffered through packaging and listing in 104F temps with no air. Luckily I do have a small unit in my bedroom window and it kept my bedroom cool enough that I could sleep — but again I had those horrid dreams. Cops, sirens, screaming, guns — I don’t need to watch TV, it’s all right there behind my eye-lids.

I need sleep. I need rest. I need school to be over.

Today we had the practice culmination ceremony. Traditionally at the end of the program I take the mic and introduce the outgoing students to their parents as next year’s sixth graders, and the graduating class of ____ (add seven to the current date). Today — at practice — I stepped up to the mic, had the kids stand and face where the audience will be — and couldn’t speak. My throat closed up. Tears filmed my eyes. I realized there is no way I am going to be able to do this for real on Thursday without seriously crying.

Usually the year end ceremony makes me a bit misty, but this is for real. This is good-bye. They won’t be bopping into my room next year to sit on the table and tell me about life in sixth grade. I won’t be there.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am looking very much forward to the next phase in my life, but while looking so earnestly ahead, I forgot how very much I hate saying good-bye.

Surprise!

On Friday my students threw me a surprise party. At least four teachers, one staff member, a half-dozen mothers and one substitute teacher helped them. They pulled the surprise off even though I knew it was going to happen ….

First off, I had no clue. They planned the entire thing without my catching wind of it. Then Friday came. One of the girls asked what I’d brought for lunch. That surprised me. My daily prep period and my lunch period are back-to-back. I usually go home for lunch and my students know it; but then again, with the report card deadline looming I hadn’t gone home to lunch all week and instead had eaten at my desk while working. I answered, “Oh, I think I’ll go home and have leftovers.” My response prompted dismay not only from the child who’d asked the question, but also from a half-dozen other children. Cindy and Nessa immediately leapt to their feet and cried out in unison, “We have to talk to Mr. K. now!” Then they shot from the room without asking permission.

This is weird. My brain instructed me to pay attention. I reviewed the events of the day. Several of my students had arrived at school that morning with bags of goodies. They claimed they were for parties in their reading classes. I was mildly surprised because our school holds the reading period sacred and such things as parties are highly discouraged, still it was the last day so a party might be plausible — except reading period had passed and some of the treat-filled sacks were still on the cupboard by my sink.

At that moment the door opened. Mr. K. entered the room. Nessa and Cindy followed him beaming triumphantly. Mr. K., agitated, said, “I am having some trouble with the report card program. I just can’t get it to work. I won’t have my report cards in on time. I know you usually go home to lunch, but you just have to stay and help me!”

Even weirder. Mr. K. used to jump out of airplanes for a living. He isn’t the type to get agitated over little things — and even if he were, the school’s technology expert was in his classroom at that very moment working on a project with his students. I followed him out the door.

“Okay, Joe,” I said once we were in the hallway, “they’re planning a party for me aren’t they.”

Joe held up his hands, “I didn’t say that.”

“Do you really need my help with your report cards?”

He shrugged, “Well — no.” I nodded my head and turned back toward my room. “No!” He actually put out his arm to block me. “You can’t go back in there.”

I nodded my head and said, “I thought so.” We stood in the hall and talked about what an incredible group of kids I have this year, and how much fun they’ve been to work with (since we share classes, Joe has taught them as well). Mrs. C. walked briskly up to us. “Charlene, you know what your students are up to don’t you?” I told her I did and she responded. “Then kindly step into Mr. Kahovec’s classroom. You need to stay out of the hallway and let them do what they need to do. Remember they still have to get to class.” She shoved me through the door to Joe’s room and said, “Ten minutes.”

My kids did still have to get to class. It was my free period, but they were supposed to be with Mrs. B. — except Mrs. B. was at a leadership seminar and had left them with a sub. I wondered how the sub was going to feel about 24 tardy students. Then Joe distracted me by pointing out some of the projects my students had worked on in his classroom. Finally he said, “Come on, I’ll walk you back to class and see if it’s safe for you to go in.”

The door was closed. I could see through the tiny security window that the lights were off. I expected that they’d let me walk in and turn the lights on, then they’d all jump out from under the table and yell, “Surprise.” That’s how they surprised me. They were all kneeling, crowded around the door, and when I opened it they jumped up screaming and frightened me out of five years of my life. They revived me with cake, potato chips and warm Coke — all the elements of a successful party thrown by eleven year-olds.

The sub was in the classroom with them. She was cutting cake and supervising the pouring of the soda. My only job was to enjoy the party, which I did.

Later I learned that the party idea originated with two girls who enlisted the aid of the Librarian and the custodian (there were luau decorations hanging from my classroom ceiling). The kids even did all the cleaning up after the party, right down to scrubbing frosting out of the carpet and vacuuming the floor.

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Btw, June first was my Blogiversary — one year of posting. One year — 365 days, well, 368 as of today, and this is my 507th post. I am a talky thing.

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Speaking of being a talky-thing, I am the guest reader at Waking Ambrose today. Doug, the host of Waking Ambrose, has written a delightful serial starring Diogenes and many other figures from Greek history and mythology and every Saturday he invites a friend to read an episode. This week I am reading:

Episode 22 of The Meditations of Diogenes The Cynic.

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You can also find me here (the March 17th installment), reading with OC:

Episode 11 of The Meditations of Diogenes The Cynic.

Wasabi & Whine II

My report cards are done. Done! Yay! Now I can just relax and have fun with the kids these last few days.

Fourth Period –

General Comments:

  • They must be good for us. They taste too nasty to be junk food.
  • Tastes like farts.
  • Rabbit poop. Green rabbit poop.

Odd Behavior:

  • Bert & Lupe, asking me for more not because they like them, but because they want to take them home and feed them to their brothers.

Conversation:

“It’s some kind of breakfast cereal.”

“Yeah, the gross kind.”

Fifth Period (my homeroom class)

General Comments:

  • “Looks like chewed up bubble gum.”
  • “Tastes like fish food.”
  • “It’s dried guacamole balls!”
  • “I feel like I just ate a bomb. My tummy is warm.”

Odd Behavior:

  • Mo grabbed his throat, made gagging noises, fell over on the floor and yelled, “She’s killed me! She’s killed me!”
  • Izzy grabbed Jake, pulled him away from the drinking fountain and started gulping water.

Conversation:

Pansy: “They can’t be all bad, Jimmy likes them.”

Cyndi: “Yeah, but he liked the liver, too. Remember?”

Pansy: “I always thought there was something weird about him.”

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Today the students will share their wasabi projects. Their assignment was to name the product, develop a slogan for it, and write a magazine ad. Stay tuned for further fun and mayhem.