Today was the last day of school for students. It’s hard to believe it’s the start of summer vacation already with Minnesota’s long-lasting winter and Seattle-like spring weather. Normally the last week of school is hot and humid and everyone at school is itching to get outside. This year we’ve had temperatures barely climbing into the 60’s, heavy clouds and rain. It honestly feels more like the start of spring break than summer vacation.
The last week of school is always filled with special events for students to celebrate their hard work throughout the school year. Our 5th graders got an all-expenses-paid field trip to Valleyfair to honor their service all year as safety patrols. We had the school talent show, rally, and awards ceremony to honor talents, school citizenship, and academic achievement. In addition, this year our school also dedicated our new rain garden to compliment our STEM and outdoor learning programs. Fifth grade also had a graduation ceremony yesterday.**
At the end of the last day of school, our 5th graders walk through the halls of the elementary school one last time while the younger grades clap and cheer for them. For many students it’s a very emotional event. Just before we were beginning our walk, a few of the girls began to tear-up, and many of the boys were bragging about how they weren’t going to cry. By the time we made it through the hallway and out to the buses, most of the 5th graders were wrecked with emotion. Some were bawling, others holding back the tears, and still others hiding under a hood or hat and avoiding all eye contact.
I can’t say how many hugs I gave to students at the end of the day. Many students I hugged several times. I wished them all a wonderful summer and reminded them that they would have fun middle school. I was holding it together until one of my students, a boy who I recently developed a stronger bond with, came back off the bus to give me a final hug. He’s a sporty, confident boy that typically doesn’t show pain. He had that “I just need a hug” look and gave me a tight hug that people usually only give when they need a lot of comforting. My eyes watered as he turned and went back up the steps of the bus.
As teachers and staff, we stood at the end of the driveway and waved each bus goodbye until next fall.
And thus ends another school year, not with shouts and cheers but with tearful hugs and goodbyes.
**I love having all of these events to recognize students, but it comes at a very stressful time for teachers. We have multiple end of the year tests to give, most within a very specific time frame, including district standardized testing in reading and math, and reading fluency and comprehension. Grades need to be compiled from unit tests, daily homework, writing pieces and projects for report cards. We’ve been busy planning for these special events, talking with teachers about the upcoming classes, and arranging schedules for next year. I can’t say when the last time was that I had my full prep period to focus on my own tasks, or when I was out the door before dinner time. Needless to say, I’m eager to rid my life of all the paperwork for a few months.