Let me say this first. I am beyond blessed to get to work with tremendous students. Not all teachers get to experience such grace. Now I’m not saying things are easy, especially on the last day.
I’m an 8th grade math teacher in a grade 6-8 middle school. For those that may read this that aren’t educators, especially ones of middle schoolers, I hope that I can accurately portray the investment that many of my colleagues and I have made this year. One of the most difficult things for a middle school teacher is to force yourself to give an ear on every occasion that it’s needed. I’m not sure there’s a greater need of middle school students, than a listening ear. I tried to make a commitment to drop what I was doing and look at a student each time they came to talk to me. I failed many times. Often the topic wasn’t of utmost importance, but I tried to listen. At the middle school level, doing this 100% of the time is an arduous task! Why? Because middle school students thirst for someone that will listen. That means you have to be prepared to listen before school, after school, on your planning period, on your way to the bathroom, when you walk by another teacher’s room, when you’re walking outside for kickball, on your way out to your car, during bus duty, during your lunch, and yes, right in the middle of class. To be effective, listening to students must come before you, your family, your colleagues, the work at hand, your grades, your plans, your hunger, and your thirst. The sadness of the last day comes in memories of these conversations. Conversations of:
- moms and dads
- heartache at home
- what someone said on social media the night before
- sporting events: what happened before the game, during the game, after the game
- homework help
- hunting stories
- the pressures of school
As I look at every one of my students, I can recall a conversation with them. Each conversation was an opportunity for me to make an impact on their life. What tremendous responsibility! I’ve found that committing myself to listening stretches my patience and my tolerance; things that can occasionally run thin on this middle school teacher. You get to see so much growth in students as a middle school teacher. All students grow physically, but so many grow in maturity too. Watching my students walk into and out of the auditorium today I was doing really well until this thought entered my mind: I’ve invested more time into these kids than I have my own daughter. I can’t say it enough, I get to build relationships with amazing young people.
During the last 2 days of school, Blennerhassett Middle School organizes a huge school-wide Olympics festival full of competitions ranging from water-balloon slingshot, musical chairs, 3 on 3 basketball, volleyball, quiz bowl, and many others. To my knowledge, the festival is unmatched by any other school. My days are spent running from competition to competition to cheer on my homebase students and fellow competitors. I spend most of the day screaming, fist-pumping, high-fiving or dancing on stage with about 50 middle school students. In between setting up and tearing down the events I’m in charge of, I try and make every last moment count with every student. I don’t eat lunch these two days so I can spend lunch in the cafeteria with my students. The days fly by and I know in just a moment, they’ll be gone. The opportunities to impact the lives of young people are dwindling. After the closing ceremonies and the tribute to our 8th graders, we’ll say our goodbyes, exchange hugs, and watch the students progress into the next chapter.
The last day of school is the hardest for me.