The last few weeks of the school year are taxing for teachers. Endless paperwork, organizing, taking inventory, cleaning, meetings, testing, and creative planning (try keeping a classroom of kiddos who are hungry for summer on-task and engaged – it’s the biggest challenge of the year) can be completely draining. We search diligently for that missing textbook; we stand on ladders to reach the very top of the cabinets and count how much construction paper we have left, hoping it’s enough to knock it off the school supply list for the next year to save a few dollars; we peel gummy contact paper off desks and scrub them clean, leaving our hands smelling like citrus the rest of the day.
We cover the walls in our rooms in preparation for state testing, turning it into a stark and empty cave, while trying to reassure our students that it’s “just a normal day,” and we analyze all the data from that testing, looking for trends. We question ourselves: “What could I have done differently?” “How am I going to call these parents and tell them their child didn’t pass this darn test when I know they worked so, so hard this year?” We make lists of topics to research over the summer, we sign up for professional development classes, and we start mentally planning ways to better teach certain objectives – while picturing ourselves sitting on the beach with the perfect cocktail in our flawlessly manicured and Expo-marker-free hands.
Yes, teachers are just as eager for summer as the students (maybe even more so??). We look forward to spending time with our families while giving our hands a rest from grading and our brains a rest from planning. We love that we can go a few weeks without having to call difficult conferences, or remembering to stop and take attendance when the bell rings, knowing it will throw off the momentum we have going. We’re happy that we get a break from keeping our eyes on a bazillion kids during recess duty and praying none of them try anything reckless (i.e., stupid), and we love that we get to sleep in a little later and snuggle our babies extra long in the morning instead of throwing Cheerios at them (literally) and rushing out the door at an ungodly hour. But there’s one thing about us you might not realize…
This is what teachers are really thinking at the end of the school year:
Knowing that we only have a few precious weeks left with these kids is emotionally exhausting for teachers. When the students exit the room on the last day of school, 25 or so pieces of our hearts leave with them. We catch a fleeting glance of what incredible things their futures hold as they turn around to say one last “good-bye”. We truly believe they’re going to be amazing adults and we’ve done everything we can to help them know that, too. We tell them all to stop by and say, “Hi,” whenever they want, understanding that they’ll come back in August ready to conquer a new grade and eager to look ahead. Only a handful will make it by for a hug or high-five and we’ll cherish those encounters. We’ll study their faces and warmly remember all the ways they made us laugh, challenged us, inspired us, and surprised us that year. Even though we’ve always been focused on their future, we’re now a part of their past, and it’s both an honor and a heartbreak.
Mamas, while the year winds down to an end and you simultaneously feel relief: no more homework! and trepidation: what the heck am I going to do with them all summer?, remember that your child’s teacher is feeling the exact same thing — relief: I can eat and pee whenever I want! and trepidation: I hope these sweet kiddos know how much I love them.